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Library Bureau Cat. no. 1137 

^aj2(ter0 of Contemporary ^u0ic 


i^asters of Contemporarg i^ustr. 

With Portraits, <Scc. 


By Charles Willeey, 
Crown 8vo, cloth, 5s, 


By J. A. FcLLER Maitlanu, 
Crown 8vo, cloth, 5s. 

[/« ^Ae Press. 



iS^asttts of iFtencl) S^nsit 










V\\ wS\'i-^«>^ ^^^ 







The reader who turns to these pages with the 
idea of finding therein a large and exhaustive 
account of the composers mentioned, with a technical 
analysis of their works, willy I fear, he disappointed. 
My intention has been afar more modest one. 

The dimensions of this volume would not have 
allowed me to devote that amount of space to each 
composer that might he considered due to his merits. 

The object I have had in view has been to give an 
account of their lives and to draiv attention to the 
tendencies exhibited in their works. 

The French can boast a splendid musical record^ 
particularly as regards the opera. Paris was for 
many years the centre towards which foreign artists 
were wont to gravitate. It was here that Gluck 
laid the seeds of his musical reforms ; that Cheru- 
bini and Spontini lived and brought out their best 


works ; it was the influence of French taste that 
caused Rossini to forsake the inartistic devices of 
his earlier Italian operas and write " Guillaume 
Tell,'" his masterpiece ; it was for Paris that Meyer- 
beer composed ^^ Robert le Diahle,"" '■'■ Lcs Huguenots,'" 
" Le Prophete," and " U Africaine ; " that Donizetti 
wrote the "Favorite,^' and Verdi, '^ Don Carlos." 
It was Paris that Wagner had in his mind when 
he composed his " Rienzi." 

Then if we cast a glance at their native composers 
what treasures of melody, what grace, and what 
innate dramatic feeling do we not find in the works 
of Mehul, BoieldieUj Auber, Herold, Adam, HaUvyy 
and others whose operas during the first half of the 
present century were heard all over Europe. 

Of a different type to the above we meet the 
Titanic figure of Berlioz, whose influence has been so 
great over the younger generation of composers and 
whose orchestral innovations have borne such fruit. 
In the present volume I am only dealing with living 
composers, otherwise there are four who occupy 
prominent places in the records of contemporary music 
whose names would have been included, Bizet, Lalo, 
Cesar Franck, and Leo Delibes. 

Bizet, the gifted author of " Carmen," the inspired 


musician ivlio wrote ^^ UArlesienne" snatched away 
at the very moment when his genius was beginning 
to meet with recognition. Who knows what he might 
not have done had he lived! As it is, ^^ Carmen" 
is probably the most generally popular opera that has 
been ivritten by a Frenchman since Gounod produced 
his " Faust" and Bizet was only thirty-seven years 
of age wJien he died ! 

Edouard Lalo, whose death occurred last year (1892)^ 
had to wait a long time before his merits received 
the recognition to which they were entitled. His 
popularity in France may be said to date from the 
time when his opera, " Le Roi d^Ys," was first 
produced at the Opera Comique some five years ago, 
Ziehen the composer had reached his sixtieth year. 
An operaofhis entitled ^^Fiesque,'' composed many years 
previously, zcas accepted by one manager after another, 
but some circumstance invariably occurred to prevent 
its being brought out. His ballet ^^ Namouna'' 
contains much that is both charming and original, 
.yet it failed to captivate the public of the Paris Opera 
when it was produced. 

Amongst his orchestral works are to be found a 
fine symphony, which I remember hearing at one 
of the Lamoureux concerts in Paris and which ought 


to he given here; two Norwegian Rhapsodies, and 
the " Symphonie Espagnole ''for violin and orchestra. 
The work he will probably he best remembered by 
is " Le Roi d'Ys." A great admirer of Wagner, 
Lalo in this opera applies the masters theories 
in a restricted sense only, and "L^ Roi d'Ys'' 
has a greater affinity with '^Tannhauser" and 
" Lohengrin " thaji with " Tristan " or the " Meister- 
singer." His chamber compositions and orchestral 
works reveal a considerable amount of originality 
and knowledge of effect, allied to consistently ele- 
vated notions with regard to the cesthetics of his art. 
A tendency towards the employment of curious 
rhythms often imparts a peculiar " cachet " to Lalo's 
compositions. In all his works he exhibits a com- 
plete mastery over orchestral resources, a branch of 
the art in which French composers as a rule 

The name of Cesar Franck is less known in 
England. Although a Belgian by birth, he may 
through his long residence in France he reckoned 
amongst the composers of that country. His reputa- 
tion has been steadily on the increase of late, and 
some of his enthnsiastic admirers have not scrupled 
to call him the '' French Bach." 


Perhaps i^>e may one day have an opportunity of 
judging works such as ^^ Ruth,'" ^' Redemption'' and 
" Les Beatitudes," which last is generally considered 
as his masterpiece. 

Leo Delibes will be remembered chiefly through 
his exquisite ballet music, such as " Coppelia " and 
" Sylvia," full of grace, charm and refinement, 
never commonplace, and bearing the stamp of a 
distinct individuality. His operas, " Le Roi Pa dit," 
" jfean de Nivelle," and " Lakme," do not show his 
talent off to the same advantage, albeit containing 
many delightful pages. 

Leo Delibes' music is typically French and is full 
of that ^^ esprit" so characteristic of our neighbours. 
A pupil of Adolphe Adam, Delibes seems to have 
acquired his master's lightness of touch and gift of 
melody, to which he laas able to add a quality of 
distinction which the composer of " Le Postilion de 
Lonjumeau " did not possess. 

It is, however, zcith the living that we are concerned, 
and, having paid a passing tribute to the memory of 
the above deceased musicians, I will now proceed 
with my task, once more claiming the indulgence of 
my readers, and begging them to bear in mind that, 
whatever defects may be noticeable in these imperfect 


sketches, I can at least claim that they have b»en 
written in perfect good faith. 


P.S. — Among the books that I have had occasion 
to consult I may mention especially Mons. Adolphe 
ytiUien's ^'Musiciens d'A ujourd'hiii" Mons. Pagnerre's 
" Charles Gounod,'' Bovefs ^^ Life of Gounod,'' 
Mons. Hugues Imbert's ''Profits de Musiciens," and 
^^Nouveaux Profits de Musiciens." 

I also take this opportunity of expressing my 
indebtedness to my friend, Mr. Robin H. Legge, for 
having been instrumental hv procuring for me in- 
formation of a valuable nature. 


July 1893. 

Note. — Since these sketches were written, the death 
of Charles Gounod has deprived France of one of 
her greatest musicians. The composer of ''Faust" 
died on the 18th of October (1893), the anniversary of 
the first performance of his opera, " La Nonne Sang- 
lante,'^ which was produced in 1854. His loss is one 
that will be mourned, not by France alone, but by all 
other nations, and Englishmen will not forget that 
their country was the birthplace of the " Redemp- 
tion" and "Morsel Vita." ^ tt 






• 37 


. 107 


• 173 


. 207 


. 223 


• 253 


• 277 


CH, GOUNOD .... 


CH. GOUNOD .... 

GOUNOD .... 







REVE" .... 


To face /. I 


.. 144 
.. 173 

I. 200 


The frontispiece and the portrait of M. 
Massenet arc taken from photographs by M. G. 
Camus, Pari<!. The portrait of the late 71/. 
Gounod, facing page 37, is taken frotn a 
photograph by M. Petit, Paris ; and the 
portraits of MM. Thomas, Saint-Saens, 
Reyer, and Brujieau, from photographs by 
MISI. Benquc and Co., Paris. 


a-^A-^.^ J 



It has become a trite saying that music is the 
youngest of the arts. The truth of this is 
nevertheless indisputable, and the remark is 
perhaps more applicable to music as represented 
in the " lyrical drama " than in any other form. 
What pleases one generation is often distasteful 
to the next, and a period of twenty or even ten 
years has sometimes been sufficient to witness a 
thorough evolution in the methods and general 
style of dramatic music. 

The career of the composer whose name 
heads this chapter is, from this point of view, 
interesting to study, and a cursory glance at the 
state of musical affairs at the time when he 
emerged from the Paris Conservatoire, having 
won the "Grand Prix de Rome," will not be 

I A 


out of place, and may help towards forming a 
more accurate estimate of his talent. 

Every art has traversed a period of degenera- 
tion, when true aesthetics have been neglected 
and men of undoubted talent, or even genius, 
have been unable to free themselves from the 
shackles of a vitiated taste. This applies, 
perhaps, more to music than to any other art, 
probably for the reason that in this case the 
demand upon the intellect is proportionately 
greater, and a certain degree of culture is 
absolutely necessary for its due appreciation. 
There is a semblance of truth in the contention 
advanced by Rubinstein, that music is the reflex 
of its time, and even re-echoes the political 
events and general state of culture of the age. 
The following paradoxical opinion of the emi- 
nent Russian composer and pianist, taken from 
his "Conversation on Music,"* is well worth 
quoting in extenso .• " I can follow musically even 
the events of our century. Our century begins 
either with 1789, the French Revolution (musi- 

* Published by Messrs. Augener. 


cally with Beethoven), or the year i8 15 is to be 
looked upon as the close of the eighteenth 
century, disappearance of Napoleon from the 
political horizon, the Restoration, &c. (musically 
the scholastic-virtuoso period : Hummel, Mo- 
scheles, and others) ; flourish of modern philo- 
sophy (third period of Beethoven) ; the July 
Revolution of 1830, fall of the Legitimists, 
raising the son of Philippe Egalite to the throne, 
the Orleans dynasty, democratic and constitu- 
tional principle in the foreground, monarchical 
principle in the background, 1848 in sight 
(Berlioz); the .^olian harp of the Polish 
rebellion of 183 1 (Chopin); romanticism gene- 
rally and its victory over the pseudo-classic 
(Schumann) ; flourish of all the arts and sciences 
(Mendelssohn) ; the triumph of the bourgeoisie, 
in sense of material existence, a shield against 
all disturbing elements of politics and culture 
(Capellmeister music); Louis Napoleon becomes 
Emperor (Liszt, the virtuoso, becomes the 
composer of symphonies and oratorios) ; his 
reign (the operetta a branch of art) ; the 


German-Franco war, Germany's unity, the 
freedom of Europe resting on ten millions of 
soldiers, change in all formerly accepted political 
principles (Wagner, his music-drama, his art 
principles, &c.)." 

We are able with a tolerable degree of 
certainty to determine the period when a house 
was built by the style of its architecture, just as 
we experience no difficulty, as a rule, in dis- 
covering the date w^hen a picture was painted 
through details that unmistakably reveal the 
epoch when the artist lived, even if the subject 
he may have chosen to illustrate be ever so 
remote. The well-known picture by Paul 
Veronese of the " Marriage Feast of Cana " is a 
case in point. 

In respect to music, a similar law would 
appear to govern its manifestations, and special 
characteristics are associated with the pro- 
ductions of different epochs. This is made 
evident by the non-success that attends the 
composer whose genius impels him onward 
towards new and unknown horizons. Woe be 


to the one who has the temerity to forestall 
his own generation. Although immortality and 
a tardy homage to his memory may be his 
reward, these will perhaps scarcely afford com- 
pensation for the trials and hardships endured 
whilst battling for sheer existence in this vale of 
tears. It is a moot consideration whether the 
wisest course to adopt is that followed by Hector 
Berlioz, or the one that has brought prosperity 
as well as celebrity to Ambroise Thomas ; for 
whereas the former may result in post-mortem 
panegyrics, the latter procures a more immediate 
recompense, and may lead to the directorship of 
the Paris Conservatoire. 

There is something inexpressibly sad in the 
evanescence of music, and in thinking of the 
comparatively small number of compositions 
destined to survive their age. In this respect 
music is at a decided disadvantage in compari- 
son with the sister arts ; the fact of the former 
being essentially creative possibly accounting 
in some measure for this. At any rate, where- 
as masterpieces of classic art, such as "The 


Dying Gladiator " and the " Apollo Belvedere " 
remain unrivalled and do not betray a vestige of 
their antiquity, much of the music composed 
fifty years ago has become so hopelessly old- 
fashioned that it can scarcely be listened to with 

Is it that in this special case familiarity breeds 
a larger dose of contempt than usual ? The fact 
has been proved over and over again, that 
compositions that seem absolutely incomprehen- 
sible to one generation, are accepted as com- 
paratively simple by the next; whereas those 
that have caught on with the public at once 
very soon lose their hold. 

The great test of an art work, as such, is its 
truth of expression. The moment this is want- 
ing, its value diminishes, and it is powerless to 
survive the caprice of fashion. 

Thus we find that those works into which 
composers have poured their innermost feelings, 
untrammelled by any desire to purchase an 
ephemeral popularity at the cost of the sacrifice 
of principle, are those that have remained. 


This is so much the case with stage works that 
it is necessary to state it definitely before pro- 
ceeding any further. 

For years the operatic composer was ahiiost 
entirely at the mercy of the singer, and it has 
required many efforts on the part of great artists 
to shake off the load, the final emancipation 
being effected through the agency of one whose 
genius towers far above that of his contem- 
poraries, and whose influence upon music has 
been as widespread as it has been beneficial. 
Need I say that I allude to Richard Wagner ? 

The spirit of routine, so engrained in the 
human mind, has also much to account for 
in preventing the development of music as 
represented in the opera. It is far from my 
desire to say anything in disparagement of a 
form of art such as the "op^ra comique," a 
genre that has been illustrated with so 
conspicuous a degree of success by composers 
such as Gretry, Monsigny, Dalayrac, Nicolo, 
Boieldieu, Herold, and Auber. At the same 
time, it must be admitted that the ideal aimed 


at by modern French musicians is altogether a 
higher one. The " lyrical drama " has usurped 
the place of the old "opera comique," and those 
composers whose inability or disinclination 
have kept them from following the prevalent 
movement, have perforce drifted into that 
mongrel species of art known as the " operette." 
From an aesthetic point of view the change is 
emphatically for the better, as the " opera 
comique," corresponding to the German " Sing- 
spiel," and to our " ballad opera," and consisting 
of an amalgam of speech and song, being neither 
fish, flesh, nor fowl, is utterly inconsistent with 

That there is still, however, a place for works 
coming under the denomination of a modernised 
form of ''opera comique," as distinct from the 
" operette," without pretensions of too lofty an 
order, is evidenced by the delightful works of 
the late Ldo Delibes, " Le Roi I'adit," " Jean de 
Nivelle," and " Lakme " ; and more recently by 
Mons. Chabrier's " Le Roi Malgre Lui " and 
Mens. Messager's " La Basoche." 


In the year 1832, when Ambroise Thomas 
had completed his twenty-first birthday, the 
Rossini fever was at its height. Beethoven was 
comparatively little known in France, and those 
amongst his symphonies that had been brought 
to a hearing had excited more wonder than 

" II ne faut pas faire de la musique comme 
celle-la," Lesueur had said to Berlioz after 
having listened to the C Minor Symphony; 
"Soyez tranquille, cher maitre, on n'en fera 
pas beaucoup," had been the answer vouch- 
safed by the future author of "La Damna- 
tion de Faust." In the meanwhile Boieldieu 
never lost the opportunity of playing through 
Rossini's operas to his pupils, and descanting 
upon their merits. It is indeed difficult to 
account for the extraordinary influence exercised 
by Rossini over his contemporaries. That his 
" facile " melodies should have proved agreeable 
to the general public, and his florid ornamenta- 
tions grateful to the singers, "passe encore." 
But that an entire generation of composers 


should have been so fascinated by the sham 
glitter of his brilliant though shallow composi- 
tions as to follow his methods in so faithful a 
manner, is incomprehensible. It is eminently 
to the credit of French taste that "Guillaume 
Tell," his only really great work of serious 
nnport, should have been written for the Paris 
Grand Opera. 

Entirely devoid of artistic conscience or of 
any of those lofty aspirations towards the ideal 
that stamp the true artist, be his name Bach or 
Beethoven, Schubert or Schumann, Berlioz or 
Wagner, Rossini deliberately squandered his 
genius. Success seems to have been his only 
object, and this once acquired he was content 
to idle away the remainder of a long existence, 
sublimely unconscious of the great musical 
upheaval that was being accomplished by 
genuine workers in the cause of art. 

What can we think of a composer who could 
employ the same overture to precede operas so 
widely different in regard to their subject-matter 
as " Elisabetta, Regina d'Inghilterra " and " II 



Barbiere " ? What of the musician who thought 
that a brilHant martial strain was the right 
musical interpretation of the sublime and 
poignant words expressive of Mary at the foot 
of the Cross ? " Cujus animam gementem, 
contristantem et dolentem " j words of inde- 
scribable sadness and depth ; a mother mourning 
her Divine Son ; a theme unexampled in point of 
pathos and emotion, set to a melody that would 
be in its proper place in some pageant descrip- 
tive of the triumphal entry of a conqueror into a 
city ! 

What, again, of the composer who could prefix 
a tragedy like " Othello " with an overture fit 
for an " opera bouffe ? " And what would be 
said nowadays of the musician who, finding 
himself short of an idea, pilfered that of another 
composer, as Rossini did in '^ II Barbiere," the 
trio in the last act of which being palpably 
taken from Haydn's " Seasons " ? The greater 
a man's genius — and no one would dream of 
denying this attribute to Rossini — the greater 
his responsibility. Noblesse oblige. In order 


that I may not be accused of formulating too 
harsh a judgment upon the Italian master^ I will 
quote the following words of Blaze de Bury, his 
friend and admirer : " Avec du genie et les 
circonstances, on fait les Rossini; pour etre 
Mozart ou Raphael, Michel Ange ou Beethoven, 
il faut avoir quelque chose de plus : des prin- 

What has been termed the "golden epoch" 
of the "grand opera" was at this time at its 
apogee^ and the period of ten years from 1828 to 
1838 witnessed the production upon the same 
boards of Auber's "La Muette de Portici," 
known here as " Masaniello," Rossini's " Guil- 
laume Tell," Halevy's "La Juive," and 
Meyerbeer's "Robert le Diable" and "Les 

It has been too much the fashion in recent 
years to decry the works of Meyerbeer, and to 
lay stress upon their shortcomings whilst giving 
but a grudging half-hearted acknowledgment to 
the many undeniable beauties that pervade 
them. Against so unjust a verdict I desire 


emphatically to protest, for however much 
Meyerbeer may have sacrificed for the sake of 
effect, there can be no doubt that he contributed 
in a large measure towards raising the operatic 
standard, then at a very low level. 

If we find the rich crop of wheat not devoid 
of chaff, we must at any rate admit that the 
former is of excellent quality. To be the author 
of " Les Huguenots," the fourth act of " Le 
Prophete," and the music to "Struensee," not to 
speak of many another dramatic masterpiece, is 
in itself a sufficient title to rank amongst the 
greatest musicians of the age. 

It would occupy too much space were I to 
enter further into a question which I may in the 
course of this volume have occasion to allude to 
again. I will therefore terminate these pre- 
liminary observations by stating the position 
occupied by the three great emancipators of 
dramatic and instrumental music — Berlioz, Liszt, 
and Wagner — at the time I mention, circa 1832.* 

■" Berlioz was born in 1803, Liszt in 181 1, and 
Wagner in 18 13. 



The first was endeavouring to obtain a hearing 
for works that were condemned as incoherent 
and unintelligible, the second had achieved 
high fame as a pianist, and the third was 
qualifying for the humble position of " Capell- 
meister" in a German provincial town. The 
charge of incoherence was destined to cling to 
Berlioz even unto the end, whilst the colossal 
reputation of Liszt as an executant for a long 
while caused his labours as a creative musician 
to be underrated. As to Wagner, the number 
of misrepresentations that he had to live 
through are too numerous and too well known 
to mention. 

Time, however, sets all things right, and the 
three masters are little by little gaining the 
position in public estimation to which they are 

Ambroise Thomas was born at Metz on the 
5th of August 1811, the same year as Liszt. 
He entered the Paris Conservatoire, of which 
institution he is at the time I am writing the 
honoured director, in 1828, and studied there 


under Zimmerman, Dourlen, and Lesueur;* 
also receiving instructions from Kalkbrenner,t 
and Barbereau.J The vein of sentiment which 
in later years was to be so prominent a feature 
in his compositions must have been noticeable 
even at that time, for it is said that his master 
Lesueur, on being told that the future author of 
" Mignon " was seventh in the class, remarked : 
" Thomas est vraiment ma note sensible." (The 
seventh note of the scale, or what we in England 
call the leading note, is known in French as 
'*la note sensible.") Having won the "Prix de 
Rome " in 1832, for a cantata entitled " Herman 
et Ketty," Ambroise Thomas repaired to Italy, 
where he spent the following three years accord- 
ing to the usual custom. 

It must have been about this time that he 
composed the trio and " Caprices en forme de 

* Lesueur, born 1763, died 1837 ; composer of " Les 
Bardes," and other operas. 

t Kalkbrenner, born 1788, died 1849; celebrated 

X Barbereau, born 1799, died 1879. 



Valses " for piano, marked respectively Opus 2 
and 4, which were appreciated in the following 
terms by Schumann.* 

"We come to an extremely pleasant com- 
position, a 'salon trio,' during which it is 
possible to look around without completely 
losing the musical thread ; neither heavy nor 
light, neither deep nor superficial, not classical, 
not romantic, but always euphonious and in 
certain parts full of beautiful melody; for 
instance, in the soft leading motive of the first 
movement, which, however, loses a great deal of 
its charm when it reappears in the major, and 
even sounds commonplace," etc. 

" The ' Caprices ' of Thomas move in a higher 
circle than Wenzel's ' Adieu de St. Petersbourg,' 
but, notwithstanding the evident application and 
the great amount of talent evinced, are nothing 
more nor less than higher-class Wenzel; 'le- 
derne' German thoughts translated into the 
French language, so pleasant that one must 
needs beware of them, and so pretentious that 
* " Gesammelte Schriften." 



one could well get vexed with them. Occasion- 
ally the composer wanders into mystic har- 
monies, but, soon frightened at his own temerity, 
returns to his natural mode of expression, to 
what he possesses and is able to give. But 
what do I expect ? The ' Caprices ' are pretty, 
sound well," etc. 

During his sojourn in the eternal city, Thomas 
made himself popular with all who came across 
him, and was alluded to by Ingres, the cele- 
brated painter, at that time head of the school 
whither were sent the successful young artists 
and musicians who had won the "Prix de 
Rome," as "I'excellent jeune homme, le bon 

The operatic career of the composer of 
"Mignon" dates from the year 1837, his first 
venture being a one-act comic opera entitled 
" La Double Echelle," produced at the Opera 
Comique. This was succeeded the following 
year by " Le Perruquier de la Regence," three 
acts, at the same theatre; and in 1839 by "La 
Gipsy," a ballet at the Opera, in collaboration 
17 B 


with Benoist, and " Le Panier Fleuri," at the 
Opera Comique. 

The prolific nature of the composer's talent 
was further illustrated by the production in 
quick succession of "Carline" (1840), "Le 
Comte de Carmagnole " (1841), " Le Guerillero " 
(1842), and "Angelique et Medor" (1843), 
none of which obtained any appreciable success. 
It was otherwise with "Mina," a three-act comic 
opera, produced at the Opera Comique in 1843, 
which enjoyed a certain vogue at the time, but 
has not survived. 

The first permanent success achieved by 
Thomas was with " Le Caid," a light opera 
given in 1849, which rapidly became popular, 
and is regarded by some as the precursor of the 
style of opera boiiffe which was destined later on 
to achieve so great a notoriety at the hands of 
Offenbach and his imitators. This is scarcely a 
correct view to take, as the innate refinement of 
a nature such as that of Ambroise Thomas has 
little in common with the vulgarities associated 
with the genre. "Le Caid," in which the 


composer amusingly parodies the absurdities 
associated with the now happily obsolete Italian 
opera style of the period, would nowadays pass 
muster as a high-class operette. This bright 
little score is full of that esprit of which 
French composers seem to possess the 
secret, and is wedded to an exceedingly 
amusing libretto. "Le Caid" has remained 
popular in France, and occupies a permanent 
place in the repertoire of the Paris Opera 

Before proceeding with the composer's oper- 
atic career, it may be well to mention a phase in 
his existence during which he bravely performed 
his duties as a citizen. At the time of the 
political troubles of 1848, when art was forcibly 
relegated into the background, Ambroise 
Thomas donned the uniform of a garde natio7tal. 
It is related that one night, when passing under 
the windows of his friend and collaborator 
Sauvage, with whom he was at that moment 
working, he shouted out to him, brandishing his 
gun, "This is the instrument upon which I 


must compose to-day; the music it produces 
requires no words." 

Happily Thomas was able soon to revert to 
more pacific and profitable occupations. 

The composer's next work was of a different 
nature, and if " Le Songe d'une Nuit d'Ete " 
(" A Midsummer Night's Dream "), given at the 
Opera Comique in 185 1, did not achieve a 
similar success to *' Le Caid," it possessed merit 
of a higher order, and is even now still occa- 
sionally performed. 

This opera has nothing to do with Shake- 
speare's comedy, as its name might imply. 
Curiously enough, the immortal bard is made 
to figure as the hero of the piece. He is repre- 
sented as a drunkard, who is rescued by Queen 
Elizabeth from his evil habits through a strata- 
gem, by which he is made to see the veiled 
figure of a woman, when he is recovering from a 
drunken bout, whom he mistakes for the em- 
bodiment of his own genius, and who threatens 
to abandon him unless he promises to reform. 
It is strange that such a farrago of nonsense 


should have been deemed worthy of serving as 
an operatic text. 

" Raymond," a three-act opera, founded upon 
the story of the Man with the Iron Mask, fol- 
lowed the above work in 185 1. The overture 
is the only number that has survived. It is a 
brilliant orchestral piece, somewhat in the style 
of Auber. 

In the course of the same year Ambroise 
Thomas was elected a member of the Institute 
in the place of Spontini. It can scarcely be 
said that this brought him much luck, for of the 
five operas that he wrote within the ten suc- 
ceeding years, not one has kept the stage. 
They need not detain us long. Their 
names are " La ToneUi " (1853) ; " La Cour de 
C^limene" (1855); "Psyche" (1857), a revised 
version of which was produced at the Op^ra 
Comique in 1878; " Le Carnaval de Venise" 
(1857) ; and " Le Roman d'Elvire " (i860). 

After these comparative failures the composer 
appears to have taken a much-needed rest and 
devoted some time to reflection, which was to 


be productive of excellent results. It may safely 
be urged that had Thomas died at this period 
he would have been only entitled to rank with 
musicians of subordinate talent, such as Masse, 
Maillart, Clapisson, "e tutti quanti." 

As it happens, he had not then given the 
full measure of his worth, and the two 
works destined to procure for him the Euro- 
pean reputation he enjoys belong to his full 

The following is the opinion emitted by 
Fetis in his " Dictionnaire des Musiciens " 
upon Ambroise Thomas. It must be remem- 
bered that these lines were written before 
the production of either " Mignon " or " Ham- 
let " : "Talent fin, gracieux, elegant, toujours 
distingue, ayant I'instinct de la scene, souvent 
melodiste, ecrivant en maitre et instrumentant 
de meme, cet artiste n'a malheureusement pas 
la sante, necessaire a I'energie de la pen see. II 
a le charme d^licat et I'esprit, quelquefois il lui 
manque la force. Quoi qu'il en soit, M. Am- 
broise Thomas n'en est pas moins un des 



compositeurs les plus remarquables qu'ait pro- 
duits la France." 

Six years after the " Roman d'Elvire,'* the 
bills of the Opera Comique announced the first 
performance of " Mignon," the instantaneous 
success of which must have helped to console 
the composer for former reverses. In construct- 
ing an opera book out of Goethe's " Wilhelm 
Meister," the librettists, Michel Carre and Jules 
Barbier, showed an even greater independence 
of spirit than they displayed when adapting the 
same poet's " Faust," for they deliberately 
altered the original denouement^ and instead of 
ending the work with Mignon's death, they pro- 
saically allowed her to marry the hero, with 
whom she is presumably supposed to live happily 
for ever afrerwards, possibly in order not to 
depart too abruptly from the conventionalities 
of the Opera Comique Theatre, which has long 
been a match-making centre for the bourgeoisie. 

Happily, Ambroise Thomas did not compose 
his " Hamlet " for the same boards, otherwise 
who knows but that the Prince of Denmark 


would not have been made to see the error 
of his ways, and wed the fair Ophelia, who 
would thereby have been saved from going 
mad, and spared the trouble of mastering the 
vocal acrobatics that are always indulged 
in by operatic heroines who are bereft of 

The marriage festivities given in honour of 
Hamlet and Ophelia would have enabled 
Ambroise Thomas to make use of his ballet 
music, and every one would have been left 
happy and contented, except perhaps the 
Ghost, who is sufficiently tedious not to de- 
serve any sympathy. It is but fair to say that 
the requirements of habitues at the Opdra 
Comique have considerably changed. Realism 
has invaded the stage, and a tragic ending is 
no longer the exception to the rule in works des- 
tined for this theatre. 

The poetical subject of " Mignon " was well 
suited to the refined nature of the composer's 
talent, and the musical value of the work has 

amply justified its success. What soprano 


vocalist is there who has not sung the suave 
cantilena, " Connais-tu le pays " ? 

The melodious duet between Mignon and the 
old harpist (" Legeres Hirondelles "), the piquant 
little gavotte that precedes the second act, the 
tenor song, "Adieu, Mignon," and the brilliant 
overture, are amongst the most noteworthy and 
popular numbers of the opera. 

The original interpretation of " Mignon " was 
of great excellence. Nothing could have been 
more perfect than Mme. Galli Marie's* assump- 
tion of the heroine, an actual embodiment of 
Ary Scheffer's well-known pictures of Mignon. 
I have heard many artists in this part, but none 
who so completely realised the character in all 
its details. Mme. Cabelt personified Philine, 
and the cast was completed by Achard (Wilhelm 
Meister), Couderc (Laertes), Bataille (Lothario), 
etc. Mme. Christine Nilsson, Mme. Minnie 
Hauk, and Miss van Zandt must be mentioned 

* This admirable artist was later on destined to 
create Bizet's "Carmen." 
t The original of Meyerbeer's " Dinorah. 



as successful interpreters of the title role. For 
the Italian version, Ambroise Thomas altered 
the small part of Frederic, and added a vocal 
arrangement of the "Entr'acte Gavotte" for the 
late Mme. Trebelli. 

"Mignon," it may be mentioned, was the 
opera that was being performed on the night of 
the terrible fire that destroyed the Opera 
Comique in 1887. 

In Germany and in Austria this opera has not 
proved less successful than it has in France, and 
the following appreciation of Dr. Hanslick* may 
not prove uninteresting : " This opera is in no 
place powerfully striking, and is not the work of 
a richly organised, original genius. Rather does 
it appear to us as the work of a sensitive and 
refined artist showing the practical ability of a 
master-hand. Occasionally somewhat meagre 
and tawdry, akin to the vaudeville style, the 

* Hanslick, Edward. Born 1825. The well-known 
critic and writer on music. Strongly antagonistic to 
Wagner and his school. Author of "Das Musikal- 
ische Schone,' etc. 



music to ' Mignon ' is nevertheless mostly 
dramatic, spirited and graceful^ not of deep, but 
of true, and in many instances warm feeling. 
Its merits and defects are particularly French, 
which is the reason why the first are more notice- 
able upon the French and the latter upon the 
German boards." 

Having followed the example of Gounod in 
going to Goethe for a subject, Ambroise Thomas 
further trod in his illustrious confrere's footsteps 
by seeking for inspiration in the works of 

The opera of " Hamlet," performed for the 
first time in 1868, was the result. After having 
cruelly libelled the bard of Avon by presenting 
him in the character of a drunkard in his 
" Songe d'une Nuit d'Ete," the composer of 
" Mignon " was but making an amende honorable 
in doing his best to provide one of the immortal 
poet's greatest works with a worthy musical set- 
ting. If his attempt can scarcely be said to 
have been crowned with the fullest amount of 
success, the fault is not entirely his own, unless 


he may be blamed for ignoring the fact of dis- 
cretion being the better part of valour. 

In endeavouring to set Shakespeare's tragedy 
to music Ambroise Thomas undertook an almost 
impossible task, and it is scarcely surprising that 
he should not have been absolutely successful. 
It would require the genius of a Wagner to give 
an adequate musical rendering of a work so deep 
and philosophical, and the Bayreuth master took 
care not to attempt it. Then again the peculiar 
nature of Ambroise Thomas's talent would 
appear to be absolutely unsuited to the musical 
interpretation of a tragedy of this description. 

In judging the operatic version of " Hamlet," 
the fact must be borne in mind that this was 
written for the Paris Opera, and subjected to 
the exigencies of that institution, which were 
then far more stringent than at the present time, 
when Wagner has at last been admitted into the 
stronghold, " Lohengrin " forms part of the 
regular repertoire^ and the " Walkiire " draws 
large audiences. Amongst these exigencies 
must be specially mentioned the introduction of 


a " ballet " towards the middle of an opera, 
whatever its subject. Wagner's refusal to con- 
form to this practice had not a little to do with 
the failure of "Tannhauser " at the Paris Opera 
in 1861. 

The French are ever priding themselves upon 
their superiority to the rest of the world in all 
matters theatrical. They are nevertheless pre- 
pared to accept the most glaring inconsistencies 
in the matter of operatic " libretti." What, for 
instance, can be more incongruous than the 
introduction of a set ballet in a tragedy like 
"Hamlet"? This can almost be placed on a 
similar level of absurdity as the mazourka intro- 
duced by Gounod in his " Polyeucte," the action 
of which takes place during the time of the early 
Christian martyrs, or as the Scotch ballet sup- 
posed to be performed at Richmond in Saint- 
Saens' " Henry VHI." 

Curiously enough, the most successful portion 

of Ambroise Thomas's " Hamlet " turns out to 

be precisely this ballet act, during which all the 

choregraphic resources of the Paris Opera House 



are called into play. In order to render justice 
to this work it is necessary to try and forget 
Shakespeare as much as possible and look upon 
it in a purely operatic light, when much will be 
found that can be unreservedly admired. The 
melodies are refined, and a certain poetical 
tinge, peculiar to the composer, pervades its 
pages, whilst the instrumentation is altogether 
of great excellence. In this last branch Ambroise 
Thomas has ever shown himself highly profi- 
cient, and I do not think that the following 
remarks of Mons. Lavoix * are unmerited : 
" Mons. Ambroise Thomas' orchestration is clear 
in its general design, spirituel and ingenious in 
its details, always interesting and full of poetical 
touches and of pleasant surprises." 

The original interpretation of " Hamlet " had 
much to do with the success that attended 
it, and the parts of Ophelia and Hamlet found 
unrivalled exponents in Mme. Christine Nilsson 
and Mons. Faure. During the rehearsals, in 
order to be free from interruption, Ambroise 
* " Histoire de 1' Instrumentation." 


Thomas transferred his abode to the Opera 
House itself^ where he was allotted a room and 
kept a strict prisoner by the manager, with his 
piano and a goodly assortment of cigars to keep 
him company, for the composer of " Hamlet 
has always been an inveterate smoker. On the 
night following the first representation he was 
re-accorded his liberty, and being asked to make 
a few alterations in his score, plaintively remarked 
that he thought " his two months were over." 

At this period Ambroise Thomas was one of 
the lions of the day, and a favourite at the Court 
of Napoleon HI. His presence at the sump- 
tuous entertainments given by the Emperor at 
the palace of Compiegne will be remembered 
by many who profited by the Imperial hos- 
pitality. Every autumn the beautiful chateau 
was used to entertain series of visitors, and all 
the notabilities of Paris were bidden thither as 
the Emperor's guests. How some of these 
requited his hospitality later on, when trouble 
had gathered about his head, is unhappily a 
matter of history. 



Ambroise Thomas -had now reached the 
apogee of his fame, and this was to receive its 
final consecration when he was called upon to 
succeed the veteran Auber, whose last days 
were embitterred, and possibly shortened, by 
the misfortunes that had befallen his country 
and disturbed his essentially pacific habits, as 
director of the Paris Conservatoire. This ofiice 
he has continued to hold until the present day. 

Since then his dramatic compositions have 
been few and far between, and if we except 
" Gille et Gillotin," a one-act trifle written many 
years previously, and played at the Ope'ra 
Comique in 1874, have consisted of " Fran9oise 
de Rimini," a grand opera in five acts produced 
at the Opera in 1882, and "La Tempete," a 
ballet given at the same theatre in 1889. These 
works have maintained their composer's reputa- 
tion, without, however, in any material way 
adding to it. 

In examining the compositions of Ambroise 
Thomas it is impossible to avoid being struck 
by the eclecticism that pervades them all. 


The composer of "Mignon" is not one of 
those great leaders of musical thought whose 
individuality becomes stamped in an indelible 
fashion upon the art products of their period. 
He has been content to follow at a respectful 
distance the evolution that has gradually been 
effected in the " lyrical drama," taking care to 
avoid compromising himself through a too 
marked disregard of recognised traditions. 
Hence the presence of much needless orna- 
mentation and countless florid passages, intro- 
duced obviously in order to show off the singer's 
voice, that cause many of his works to appear 

Mons. Adolphe Jullien, the well-known critic, 
somewhat severely sums up the measure of the 
composer's talent in the following words ', " The 
principal talent of Mons. Thomas consists in 
having been able to bend himself to the taste of 
the public by serving up in turn the style of 
music that suited it best. Very clever in his 
art, but without any originality or conviction of 
any sort, he began by writing o/>a'a comiques 
33 c 


imitated from Auber, and pasticcios of Italian 
opera buffa imitated from Rossini (such as 
*' Carline " and " Le Caid ") ; he then attempted 
the dramatic opera comique^ dSXtx the manner of 
Halevy, in the " Songe d'une Nuit d'Ete," and 
" Raymond." Later on he did not disdain to 
compete with Clapisson in writing " Le Carnaval 
de Venise" and " Psyche "j then, after a long 
period of inaction provoked through several 
repeated failures, during which the star of 
M. Gounod had risen on the horizon, he has 
attempted a new style, imitated from that of his 
young rival, with "Mignon" and "Hamlet." 
In one word, he is a musician of science and 
worth absolutely devoid of artistic initiative, 
and who turns to all the four quarters of the 
winds when these blow in the direction of 

These words contain undoubted elements of 
truth, inasmuch as they accentuate the fact 
that Ambroise Thomas' talent partakes largely 
of an assimilative nature. Notwithstanding this, 
there is a certain degree of personality evident 


in much of his music, discernible through an 
indefinable touch of melancholy that imparts a 
measure of distinction to many of his works, 
which can be sought for in vain amongst the 
compositions of his more immediate contem- 

Ambroise Thomas is one of the last offshoots 
of a brilliant period, showing in his later works 
indications of a desire to follow the new move- 
ment, without possessing sufficient strength to 
do more than make a feeble attempt at breaking 
through the bonds of operatic " routine," and 
ridding himself of the tyranny of the vocalist. 

His work is unequal as a whole, but there is 
sufficient good in " Mignon " and " Hamlet " to 
atone for many weaknesses, and it is through 
these operas that his name will be handed down 
to posterity. 


^// , ^l^l^^S^yoJ 


To be the composer of " Faust " is in itself suffi- 
cient to establish a claim upon the sympathy 
and gratitude of many thousands, as well as 
to enjoy the indisputable right of occupying a 
niche by the side of the greatest and most ori- 
ginal composers of the century. 

There are but few creative musicians whose in- 
dividuality is so striking that it leaves its impress, 
not only upon their own productions, but upon 
those of their contemporaries. Their genius is 
reflected, their mode of thought copied, and even 
their mannerisms are reproduced by numberless 
admirers and conscious or unconscious imitators. 

As it was with Mendelssohn, Schumann, and 
Wagner, so it has been with Gounod. A higher 
tribute of praise it is indeed impossible to offer. 


The French master has himself defined in a 
few words the indebtedness of every composer 
to his predecessors, and the difference existing 
between that which is communicable and that 
which is individual. 

"The individuality of genius consists," he 
says, "according to the beautiful and profound 
expression of an ancient writer, in saying in a 
new way things that are not new : ' Nove non 
nova.' The influence of the masters is a 
veritable paternity : wishing to do without them 
is as foolish as to expect to become a father 
without ever having been a son. Thus the life 
which is transmitted from father to son, leaves 
absolutely intact all that in the son constitutes 
personality. In this way is it with regard to the 
tradition of the masters, which is the transmis- 
sion of life in its impersonal sense : it is this 
which constitutes the doctrine which the genius 
of St. Thomas Aquinas admirably defines as the 
science of Hfe.""* 

* Preface to the " Choix de Chorals de Bach, annotes 
par Ch. Gounod." Published by Messrs. Choudens. 


With some masters the personality above 
alluded to shows itself earlier than usual, as in 
the case both of Mendelssohn and Gounod. 

There exists a point of contact between these 
two composers, so entirely dissimilar one from 
another in every way, which it may be well to 
point out. This is in respect to the nature of 
the influence they have exercised over other 
composers, which consists not so much in the 
adoption of any special mode of thought or art 
principle, but is exemplified by the servile imi- 
tation of specific mannerisms. Less far-reach- 
ing and wide-spread than that of Wagner, the 
influence of the above masters has also been 
less beneficial, for the reason that it has been 
more objective than subjective, and has shown 
itself rather in the outward details of many a 
composition than through its inward conception. 
The likeness has been more in the cut of the 
garment than in the material thereof. This may 
be accounted for by the fact that both Men- 
delssohn and Gounod are mannerists in the 
highest sense of the word, and their favourite 


methods of expression being easy to imitate, have 
been repeated by others ad nauseam^ until they 
have begun to pall; whereas Wagner has opened 
a vast expanse, beyond which stretches an 
illimitable horizon, whither the composer of the 
future will be able to seek fresh sources of in- 
spiration. His art, which has been described 
by some as typically Teutonic, is in reality 
universal, because it reposes upon the- immut- 
able principles of truth and logic, and is 
applicable to all nations, amongst which it has 
imperceptibly struck root and become accli- 
matised, perhaps nowhere more so than in the 
country of the composer with whom I am now 

Two elements have in their turn exercised 
their sway over Gounod, and both have helped 
to impart, either separately or jointly, to his 
music certain of those characteristics familiar to 
all who have studied his works — religion and 
love. The mysticism and sensuous tenderness 
that pervade his compositions, whether sacred 
or secular, are evidently the reflex of a mind 


imbued with lofty aspirations, swayed at one 
moment by worldly tendencies, but returning 
with renewed intensity towards the pursuit of 
the ideal. Something of the same spirit may 
be discerned in the musical personality of 
another great artist, and both Liszt and Gounod 
exhibit in their widely different works the dual 
ascendancy of divine and human love. 

" Das Ewig Weibliche zieht uns hinan," the 
words with which Goethe terminates the second 
part of his " Faust,'' are singularly applicable to 
the composer whose greatest work is founded 
upon the immortal poet's tragedy, and who has 
been especially successful in his treatment of 
the sentimental portions thereof. 

The sensuous nature of his music is notice- 
able even in his religious compositions, of which 
it does not constitute the least charm. 

The future composer of " Faust " was born in 
Paris on the 17th of June 1818. 

From his earliest age he displayed exceptional 
musical aptitudes, and showed signs of an un- 
doubted vocation for the career in which he was 


destined so conspicuously to shine. In her 
" Life of Gounod " Mdlle. de Bovet relates the 
following anecdotes of his childhood : " At the 
age of two, in the gardens of Passy, w^here he 
was taken for exercise, he would say, ' That dog 
barks in Sol,' and the neighbours used to call 
him Le petit miisicien. He likes to repeat what 
he said one day in that far distant childhood. 
He had been listening to the different cries of 
the street vendors, ' Oh ! ' he exclaimed sud- 
denly, ' that woman cries out a Do that weeps.' 
The two notes with which she hawked her 
carrots and cabbages actually formed the minor 
third— C, E flat. The baby, scarcely out of 
his leading-strings, already felt the mournful 
character of this combination." 

When about seven years of age he was taken 
to hear Weber's " Freischiitz," or rather the 
mutilated version of this masterpiece by Castil- 
Blaze known under the name of "Robin des 
Bois." The impression produced upon his youth- 
ful mind by Weber's beautiful melodies appears to 
have been very great. A few years later, when 


a schoolboy, he heard Rossini's " Otello " inter- 
preted by Malibran and Rubini, and the ItaHan 
" maestro's " florid strains seem to have struck 
him in an equal degree. His enthusiasm, how- 
ever, reached its highest pitch when he became 
acquainted with "Don Giovanni." He has ever 
since been an ardent devotee at the shrine 
of Mozart, and of late years his admiration for 
the master's music seems, if anything, to have 

Having had the misfortune to lose his father 
at an early age, he was brought up under the 
care of his mother. His first studies in compo- 
sition were pursued under Reicha, one of the 
most celebrated theorists of the time ; and hav- 
ing completed his general education at the 
college of St. Louis, he entered the classes of 
the Conservatoire in 1836, receiving instruction 
in counterpoint from Halevy, and in composi- 
tion from Lesueur. In 1839 he obtained the 
" Grand prix de Rome," and soon afterwards left 
for Italy. During his sojourn in Rome Gounod 
devoted himself largely to the study of religious 


music, and spent a great portion of his time in 
perusing the works of Palestrina and Bach. 

Whilst residing at the famous Villa Medicis 
he made the acquaintance of Fanny Hensel, the 
sister of Mendelssohn, in whose correspondence 
may be found several interesting details con- 
cerning the future composer of " Faust." 

In a letter dated April 23, 1840, she writes: 
" Gounod has a passion for music ; it is a plea- 
sure to have such a listener. My little Venetian 
air delights him ; he has also a predilection for 
the Romance in B Minor composed here at 
Rome, for the duet of Felix, his ' Capriccio ' in 
A minor, and especially for the concerto of 
Bach, which he has made me play more than 
ten times over." Later on, in another letter, she 
writes as follows : " On Saturday evening I 
played to my guests, and performed, amongst 
other things, the Concerto of Bach ; although 
they know it by heart, their enthusiasm 
goes 'crescendo.' They pressed and kissed my 
hands, especially Gounod, who is extraordi- 
narily expansive ; he always finds himself short 


of expressions when he wishes to convey to me 
the influence I exercise over him, and how 
happy my presence makes him. Our two 
Frenchmen form a perfect contrast : Bousquet's 
nature is cahii and correct, Gounod's is pas- 
sionate and romantic to excess. Our German 
music produces upon him the effect of a bomb 
bursting inside a house." 

In June 1840 Fanny Hensel and her hus- 
band left for Naples. The following extract 
from a letter is interesting, as showing to what 
extent, even at that early period, Gounod had 
become imbued with religious ideas : " Bousquet 
confided to us on the way his fears concerning 
the religious exaltation of Gounod since he had 
come under the ascendancy of the Pere Lacor- 
daire .... whose eloquence had already 
during the previous winter grouped around him 
a number of young men. Gounod, whose cha- 
racter is weak and whose nature is impres- 
sionable, was at once gained over by Lacor- 
daire's stirring words; he has just become a 
memoer of the association entitled ' John the 


Evangelist,' exclusively composed of young 
artists who pursue the regeneration of humanity 
through the means of art. The association con- 
tains a large number of young men belonging 
to the best Roman families ; several amongst 
these have abandoned their career in order to 
enter into holy orders. Bousquet's impression is 
that Gounod is also on the point of exchanging 
music for the priest's garb." 

In 1843 we find Gounod in Vienna, where a 
" Requiem " of his composition attracted some 
attention. On his return to Paris he vainly 
endeavoured to find a publisher for some songs 
he had composed while at Rome. When we 
hear that these included " Le Vallon," " Le 
Soir," '' Jesus de Nazareth," and "Le Printemps " 
— that is to say, some of the most beautiful in- 
spirations that have emanated from his brain — 
it becomes difficult to account for the obtuse- 
ness of the pubUshers. 

Discouraged in this quarter, Gounod devoted 
his attention once more to religious music, and 
accepted the post of organist to the chapel of 


the " Missions Etrangeres." He even enter- 
tained the idea of entering into holy orders. 
Happily this was not to be. The name of 
Gounod was becoming known in musical circles, 
and through the influence of Mme. Viardot, the 
celebrated singer, sister of Malibran, the young 
composer was commissioned to write the music 
of an opera to a book by Emile Augier,* for the 
"Acade'mie Nationale." This, his first contribu- 
tion to the lyric stage, was " Sapho," which was 
brought out in 1851, without, however, achiev- 
ing much more than a siicces d'estime. It was re- 
vived in a curtailed form seven years later, and 
finally, remodelled and enlarged, was repro- 
duced in 1884. Notwithstanding its failure to 
attract the public, " Sapho " commanded the 
approbation of many competent judges, amongst 
whom we find no less a musician than Berlioz, 
who thus expressed himself upon the composer's 
merits : " M. Gounod is a young musician en- 

* Augier, Emile. Celebrated dramatist. Author of 
"L'Aventuriere," " Le Mariage d'Olympe," "Lions 
et Renards," etc. 



dowed with precious qualities, whose tendencies 
are noble and elevated, and whom one should 
encourage and honour, all the more so as our 
musical epoch is so corrupt." 

" Sapho " is by no means the worst opera 
Gounod has composed, though unequal as a 
whole. The original version remains the best. 

The year after the production of "Sapho" 
Gounod married a daughter of Zimmermann,* a 
well-known musician and professor. 

His next venture was at the Theatre Frangais, 
for which he wrote incidental music to " Ulysse," 
a tragedy by Ponsard. A detail to note is that 
the orchestra was conducted by Offenbach. 
Although the music to this was universally 
praised, it did not suffice to save the piece from 
dire failure. " La Nonne Sanglante," a five-act 
opera, founded upon a novel by Monk Lewis, 
produced in 1854, was even less successful than 
"Sapho." At the same time, the press was 
sufficiently favourable, and Gounod's reputation, 
though awaiting its final consecration, was at 
* Zimmermann, born 1775, died 1853. 


any rate on the increase. It is as well to men- 
tion here the success achieved in London of 
some religious compositions of Gounod's at a 
concert given in 185 1, which called forth an 
enthusiastic article in the Athenceiim. 

The year 1855 witnessed the production of 
one of the master's most individual works, the 
" Messe de Ste. Ce'cile," the popularity of which 
has remained unabated on both sides of the 
Channel, and which furnishes perhaps the most 
typical example of his genius in this particular 
line. Mons. Pagnerre, Gounod's biographer, 
very rightly considers this as occupying the same 
position in regard to his religious as "Faust" 
does to his dramatic works. 

For years Gounod had cherished the desire 
of setting Goethe's " Faust " to music, and in 
1855 he mentioned the subject to the librettists 
Michel Carre and Jules Barbier, who imme- 
diately set to work and provided the required 
text. Circumstances, however, combined to 
prevent him from completing his w^ork, and 
Mons. Carvalho, then director of the Theatre 
49 D 


Lyrique, having suggested something of a lighter 
description, Gounod interrupted his labours, and 
in five months completed the score of " Le 
Medecin Malgre Lui," an operatic version of 
Moliere's comedy, which was performed for the 
first time on January 15, 1858. This little opera 
is a perfect gem of delicate fancy and refined 
humour. It affords a proof of what can be 
achieved with limited means by a true artist, 
and how burlesque situations are susceptible of 
being treated without a suspicion of vulgarity or 
triviality. Berlioz well defined its true worth 
when he wrote : " Everything in this comic 
opera is pretty, piquant, fresh, spontaneous; 
there is not a note too much nor a note too 
little." It has frequently been performed in 
England under the title of "The Mock 

We now approach the culminating point in 
the composer's career. The score of " Faust " 
was almost finished in October 1857, and Gou- 
nod was said to be at work upon a grand opera 
entitled " Ivan the Terrible," which was never 


completed, or at all events never played. The 
composer utilised several portions thereof in 
other operas : the celebrated soldier's march in 
" Faust " was originally composed for the above 
work. " Faust " was first performed at the 
Theatre Lyrique on the 19th of March 1859, 
with the following cast : Faust, Barbot ; Mephis- 
topheles, Balanque; Valentin, Reynald ; Siebel, 
Mdlle. Faivre ; Marguerite, Mme. Carvalho. It 
was transferred to the Grand Opera in 1869, 
with certain alterations, including new ballet 
music for the fifth act, when it was interpreted 
by Colin, a young tenor of great talent and 
promise, w^ho was destined to die prematurely 
not long after ; Faure, unsurpassed as Mephis- 
topheles ; Devoyod, Mdlle. Mauduit, and Mme. 
Nilsson, the best of Marguerites. 

The success of " Faust " did not for some 
time assume anything like the proportions it 
was destined to attain later on, and the follow- 
ing extracts from some of the criticisms of the 
day may not be uninteresting. BerHoz was on 
the whole distinctly favourable to his young 


rival's work, and his appreciation, coming from 
one who had himself sought for inspiration from 
the same source, acquires thereby additional 
importance. According to him, the most 
remarkable portion of the score is the mono- 
logue of Marguerite at her window, which closes 
the third act. In this it is probable that many 
will now agree. 

Scudo,* the once famous critic of the Revue 
des Deux Mondes, was less favourable than 
Berlioz, although he admitted the work to be 
thoroughly distinguished; ''but," he added, 
"the musician has not seized the vast con- 
ception of the German poet ; he has not suffi- 
ciently succeeded in appropriating unto himself 
the epic force of Goethe, to render any new 
attempt impossible." In this, Scudo was perhaps 
not altogether wrong. As, however, he always 
showed himself the uncompromising opponent 
of Berlioz, Wagner, and the newer school of 
musical thought, his judgment loses some of its 
weight, and it is not surprising that he should 
* Scudo. P. Born 1806. Died 1864. 


have pronounced the soldier's march to be a 
masterpiece, whilst failing to recognise the beauty 
of the garden scene. 

Strangely enough, neither Berlioz nor Scudo, 
judging the work from such different stand- 
points, were in any way impressed by the 
musical beauties or dramatic force of the prison 
scene. Jouvin, the critic of the Figaro, whilst 
praising the second and fourth acts, thought the 
third monotonous and lengthy. On the other 
hand, the critic of the Illustration considered 
this as the finest. Scudo having died in 1864, 
he was succeeded on the Revue des Deux 
Maudes by Blaze de Bury, who proved even 
more hostile to Gounod than his predecessor. 

" Faust " was first performed in . London 
under Col. Mapleson's regime, in 1864, with 
the following cast : Mme. Titiens, Marguerite ; 
Mme. Trebelli, Siebel ; Giuglini, Faust ; Gassier, 
Mephistopheles ; Santley, Valentine. Signor 
Arditi was the conductor. 

Later on, during the same season, it was 
given at Covent Garden and interpreted as 


follows : Mme. Miolan-Carvalho, Marguerite ; 
Mme. Nantier Didier, Siebel ; Tamberlik, 
Faust; Faure, Mephistopheles ; Graziani, 

Since then, the number of singers who have 
appeared in this unique work has been very 
great. There probably does not exist a pri77ia 
donna who has not enacted the part of 
Marguerite ; and *' Faust " has usurped the 
place formerly occupied by " La Sonnambula " 
as the debutante^ s opera. 

In his amusing Memoirs, Colonel Mapleson 
gives an entertaining account of the production 
of " Faust " in London. 

Finding that there appeared to be a lack of 
public interest in the new work, discernible 
through the fact that only ;^3o worth of seats 
had been disposed of for the first night, he 
adopted the bold and singular course of dis- 
tributing the tickets for the first three perform- 
ances far and wide, and giving out that the 
house was sold out. He then put an advertise- 
ment in the Tmes^ stating that, " in consequence 


of a death in the family, two stalls for the first 
representation of 'Faust,' the opera that had 
excited so much interest that all places for the 
first three representations had been bought up, 
could be had at 2^s. each." The success of 
this stratagem appears to have been complete. 
Public curiosity was aroused, and the triumphant 
career of "Faust" in this country was begun. 

The success *' Faust" has achieved all the 
world over is probably unprecedented in operatic 

Gounod is said to have got only ;£4o for the 
English rights, and he was deemed lucky to get 
even that. 

It would appear to be an impossibility for a 
composer to succeed in pleasing every one, and 
although perhaps "Faust" possesses this gift 
as much as any other operatic work, yet it is not 
surprising that it should have been criticised 
adversely from many varied points of view. 
That it should have proved distasteful to 
Wagner is but natural, considering the fact that 
the " libretto " must have seemed to the German 


master a desecration of Goethe's poem, even as 
much as the book of " Guillaume Tell " was a 
parody of Schiller's play. 

Amongst the most singular appreciations of 
'' Faust " is that emitted by Blaze de Bury, who 
qualifies it as an " Italian " opera ! 

As a contrast to this, several others have 
commented upon the composer's German 
tendencies, and the names of Mendelssohn and 
Schumann have been freely mentioned as 
furnishing the source of his inspiration. In 
point of fact, "Faust "is neither German nor 
Italian, but French, essentially French in its 
melody, essentially French in its harmony. The 
few unmistakable reminiscences of Mendelssohn 
do not detract from this any more than does the 
undoubted influence in many places of Meyer- 
beer. Of Schumann I can find but few if any 
traces. On the other hand, the work bears the 
stamp throughout of Gounod's own individuality. 
It is not an occasional reminiscence or a passing 
thought that suffices to class a work as belonging 
to any special school, but rather its general 


characteristics. Those who want a typical 
German Faust must go to Schumann, whilst 
those who prefer Goethe as seen through 
Italian spectacles can apply to Boito. As 
regards the essentially Gallic interpretations of 
Berlioz and Gounod there can be no question. 

Probably no legend has ever been turned to 
such account by poet, dramatist, and musician as 
•that of ** Faust." The fascination of the story, 
whether looked at in its philosophical or purely 
romantic aspect has proved irresistible to many 
generations. The original Faust appears to be 
a mythical personage, who in some form or 
another has figured in the folk-lore of all nations, 
and is not to be confounded with Faust, or Fust, 
the printer. An individual of this name is 
mentioned by Melancthon in his " Table Talk " 
as having been a professor of magic at Cracow, 
and a great traveller, who had startled the in- 
habitants of Venice by flying through the air. 
The Reformer pleasantly alludes to this person 
as " Turpissima bestia et cloaca multorum dia- 
bolorum." The existence of this Faust at Cracow 


is further corroborated by Wierns in 1588, a year 
later than the publication of the earliest version of 
the Faust legend by Spiess. It is upon this last 
that Marlowe founded his " Dr. Faustus," which 
was brought out in the following year. The 
long narrative of the story by Widman appeared 
in 1599. In all these versions the character 
of Marguerite is absent. It was reserved for 
Goethe to evolve this beautiful conception from 
his brain.* 

Since the appearance of the great German 
poet's masterwork, the subject, as treated by 
him, has been utilised in various manners by 
numberless musicians. It would perhaps not 
be uninteresting to cast a glance at some of 
these. The following composers had preceded 
Gounod in making use of "Faust" as an opera 
text : Lickl (18 15), Strauss (18 14), Spohr (18 14), 
Seyfried (1820), Beancourt (1827), Sir Henry 
Bishop (1825), Lindpaintner (1831), Mdlle. 

* The above details are taken from " The Lyrical 
Drama," by H. Sutherland Edwards. (W. H. Allen 



Bertin (1831), Rietz (1837), and Gordigiani 
(1837).* What has become of all these works ? 
Chi lo sa ? The only one that has in any way 
survived is that by Spohr, extracts from which 
are still occasionally heard in the concert-room. 
Boito's " Mefistofele " belongs of course to a 
subsequent period. It redounds greatly to the 
credit of the Italian composer that he should 
have succeeded in imposing a new operatic 
setting of Goethe's poem when this was so 
intimately associated in most people's minds 
with the music of Gounod. 

Although strangely unequal, " Mefistofele " is 
nevertheless in many ways a highly remarkable 
work, particularly as marking a departure from 
the usual methods peculiar to Italian composers, 
and aiming at a higher ideal. It has born fruit. 
Boito is a poet as well as a musician, and in his 

*Lickl; b. 1769, d. 1843. Spohr; b. 1784, d. 
1859. Seyfried ; b. 1776, d. 1841. Bishop, Sir H. ; 
b. 1786, d. 1855. Lindpaintner ; b. 1791, d. 1856. 
Mdlle. Bertin; b. 1805, d. 1877. Rietz, J. ; b. 1812, 
d. 1877. Gordigiani; b. 1806, d. i860. 



operatic adaptation of " Faust " he has evidently 
striven to depart as little as possible from 
Goethe's plan. This is of course commendable. 
Unfortunately, the result has not been altogether 
satisfactory, for in endeavouring to compress the 
two " Fausts " of Goethe into one work, the 
Italian composer has been compelled to make a 
selection from the different situations occurring 
in the original, and has only succeeded in 
presenting a succession of scenes strung together 
apparently without rhyme or reason. A proper 
sub-title for " Mefistofele" would be, " A selection 
of scenes from the two Fausts of Goethe, opera- 
tically treated by A. Boito." Certainly the 
librettists of Gounod's opera have shown but 
scant regard for Goethe's intentions, but they 
have at any rate concocted a story with a well- 
regulated and dramatically logical plot. Boito, 
on the other hand, in his evident desire to do 
justice to Goethe, has attempted too much and 
achieved too little. "Qui trop embrasse, mal 
etreint." This has been the case with Boito. 
Many people have tried to discover a philoso 


phical meaning, and the realisation of a quantity 
of abstract notions in Boito's music, which only 
exist in their imagination. Perhaps the three 
composers who have best grasped the spirit of 
the wonderful poem have been Schumann, Liszt, 
and Wagner : the first in his " Scenes from 
Faust," the second in his " Faust Symphony," 
the third in his " Faust Overture." Gounod has 
been more successful in this respect than many 
people are inclined to allow. It is only 
necessary to point to the first bars of the Prelude 
and the commencement of the first act as a 
proof of this fact. 

Of late years Berlioz's " Damnation de Faust " 
has acquired a well-deserved though tardily-be- 
stowed popularity. It was considered by the com- 
poser as one of his best works, a judgment which 
has since then received a practically universal en- 
dorsement. At the same time, it is rather by 
reason of its own individuality than as a satis- 
factory interpretation of Goethe, that the above 
" dramatic legend " is entitled to the high rank 
it occupies in the esteem of musicians, and much 


of the effect produced by this extraordinary 
composition can in a large measure be assigned 
to the glamour shed over it by the wonderful 
orchestral colouring that Berlioz knew so well 
how to employ, his mastery of which will 
probably remain his chief glory with posterity. 
Berlioz states that the score of his " Faust " was 
composed by him with an amount of facility 
that he rarely experienced in connection with 
his other works. The famous march on a 
Hungarian theme was written by him in one 
night. "The extraordinary effect," he writes, 
" that it produced at Pesth decided me to intro- 
duce it into the score of ' Faust*,' in taking the 
liberty of placing my hero in Hungary at the 
outset of the work, and causing him to assist at 
the passing of a Hungarian army across the 
plain where he is indulging in dreamy thoughts." 
Berlioz excuses this liberty by stating that in 
composing his " Faust " he had never intended 
to bind himself into following the plan adopted 
by Goethe in his masterpiece. This specious 
sort of argument is all very well in its way, and 


the adoption of similar methods might prove of 
infinite service to composers in enabling them 
to utilise previously-written works, and thereby 
save themselves trouble. Whether it is artistic 
or not, is another matter. If we suppose, for 
instance, that Berlioz had had by him a " Taran- 
tella " and an Irish jig, he might have transported 
his hero alternately to Italy and to Erin, and 
named his work " The Travels of Faust," which 
at any rate would not have been open to the 
same objection as the original title chosen by 
him. Despite these casual observations and the 
fact that, looked at from the point of view of a 
satisfactory interpretation of Goethe's poem, the 
work falls short, Berlioz's "Faust" none the less 
remains one of its author's most inspired com- 
positions; beautiful in parts, though needlessly 
eccentric in others ; powerful, and, above all, 
eminently individual. 

If the " Faust " of Berlioz may be ranked as 

one of its author's best works, the same place of 

honour can undoubtedly be ascribed to the 

"Scenes from Faust" of Schumann in the 



lengthy catalogue of the master of Zwickau's 
compositions, and it is strange that so few 
opportunities should be afforded to Londoners 
of appreciating its beauties. The second part 
of this work is generally considered by 
musicians as being the most remarkable, but 
Schumann's setting of the Church scene counts 
amongst his finest inspirations. The overture 
is the weakest portion, and cannot compare 
with Wagner's masterly tone-poem known as 
" Eine Faust Ouverture," one of the most 
striking examples of modern orchestral music. 
I must not omit to mention the "Faust 
Symphony " of Liszt, which is also too seldom 
performed, probably on account of its length 
and extreme difficulty, also possibly owing to 
the uncompromising hostility entertained in 
certain quarters against the master's music. 
Although consisting of three movements — 
labelled respectively " Faust," " Marguerite," and 
" Mephistopheles," the work in question might 
rather come under the category of a " symphonic 
poem." It is constructed upon entirely uncon- 


ventional lines, the themes being subjected 
to various transformations, after the method 
peculiar to Liszt. The second portion is one 
of the most beautiful movements in the entire 
range of instrumental music. 

The following composers have also treated 
the same subject more or less successfully : 
Prince Radziwill, Litolff, Hugo Pierson, 
ZoUner, and Eduard Lassen.* The latter's 
incidental music is constantly given in Germany 
in conjunction with the drama. As this is the 
age of festivals, I should like to suggest to the 
minds of those responsible in such matters the 
feasibility of attempting what might be termed 
a " Faust " festival. This could be made to 
occupy the inside of a week, and would 
be devoted entirely to works inspired by 
Goethe's poem. I venture to think that the 
idea is susceptible of being turned to good 
account. Many musical treasures, the existence 

* Radziwill; b. 1775, d. 1833. Litolff, Henry; 
b, 1819, d. 1891. Pierson, H.; b. 1815, d. 1873. 
Lassen, E.; b. 1830. 

65 E 


of which is unsuspected, would thereby come 
to light. 

It would appear to be almost needless to 
attempt to give a description of the music that 
Gounod has wedded to Messrs. Michel Carre 
and Jules Barbier's operatic version of " Faust." 
That it is perhaps the most popular opera 
composed during the last fifty years is a 
generally recognised fact, and one that is not 
likely to be seriously contested, whatever 
restrictions may be made from different points 
of view concerning its merits. Since it was 
first produced, a new generation has sprung up, 
and what appeared startlingly bold thirty years 
ago has long ceased to be so considered. In 
1859 matters were very different from what they 
now are. The operatic pabulum in England 
consisted of the works of Balfe and Wallace. 
In France, Auber was at the head of the 
Conservatoire ; Ambroise Thomas had written 
neither "Mignon" nor "Hamlet"; Clapisson, 
Masse, Maillart, and composers of that calibre, 
enjoyed the confidence of the patrons of the 


Opera Comique ; whilst Berlioz and Wagner 
were looked upon as musical iconoclasts. 

In Italy, Verdi reigned supreme, the Verdi of 
" II Trovatore " and "La Traviata," and no- 
thing tended to foreshadow the astonishing 
transformation of style that was eventually to 
lead the master to compose works such as 
''Aida," the "Requiem," " Otello," and 
" Falstaff." 

Musical education has made considerable 
progress since those days, and the all-absorbing 
individuality of Wagner has exercised a sway 
over musical art that is far from having spent 

The form in which " Faust " was composed 
did not tend to differ in any appreciable 
degree from that adopted by Meyerbeer, with 
the exception that certain Italianisms and 
concessions to the vocalist were dispensed 

Gounod's method, from which he has not 
since departed, seems to have been to musically 
delineate each phase of the drama, treating 


every scene as a separate whole — that is to say, 
without having recourse to any connecting Hnk 
or kit motiv ; the recurrence of previously- 
heard melodies in the fifth act hardly coming 
under this category. He is satisfied to depict 
his characters in music that is intended to be 
more or less in accordance with their individu- 
ality. Herein consists the great difference that 
separates his works from those that are con- 
ceived after Wagnerian ideas. 

The music allotted to Mephistopheles has an 
appropriate amount of Satanic colouring, and is 
invested with a certain grim humour. It has 
been remarked that Gounod has been less 
successful than Berlioz in his musical depiction 
of the philosophical side of Goethe's poem. 
This may or may not be true, but in comparing 
the two works it must be recollected that the 
composers cannot be judged from the same 
point of view, for whereas Berlioz was hampered 
by no theatrical trammels or operatic con- 
ventionalities, but was able to turn the legend 
to whatever account he chose, even to trans- 


porting Faust to the plains of Hungary and 
accompanying him to the infernal regions, 
Gounod was to a certain extent dependent 
upon his librettists, who saw in Goethe's poem 
nothing more than a story susceptible of being 
turned to operatic purposes. As to what really 
constitutes the philosophical in music, probably 
no two people will agree. Music is intended to 
convey certain impressions which in turn cause 
corresponding emotions to the listener, in 
accordance with that which it has been the 
composer's intention to depict. If it fails in so 
doing, the fault may be ascribed either to the 
composer's incapacity, or to a want of sym- 
pathetic feeling on the part of the listener. 

It is eminently to the credit of Gounod that 
he should have found the means in his 
"Faust" of pleasing a variety of differently 
constituted individuals, who probably admire 
his work from totally different standpoints. 

To the great majority the charm of " Faust '^ 
lies in melodies such as those of the "old 
men's " and soldiers' choruses, the Kermesse 


and well-known waltz ; the more refined and 
sentimental will prefer the famous love duet 
and the prison trio ; prime donne will 
incline to the jewel song, which furnishes them 
with the opportunity of displaying the agility 
of their throats ; and the cultivated musician 
will single out parts that do not attract the 
same amount of attention, but are not the less 
noteworthy — such as the opening bars of the 
Prelude, the entire first act, the end of the 
third act, the death of Valentine, the Church 
scene, the commencement and end of the last 
act. When "Faust" was transferred from the 
Theatre Lyrique to the Grand Opera in 1869, 
Gounod wrote additional ballet music, which, 
though charming enough in itself, is absolutely 
out of keeping with the nature of the subject, 
and might equally well figure in any opera of 
the type associated with this theatre. 

*' Faust " may be considered as an important 

landmark in Fiench music, and from the year 

1859 may be said to have sprung up an entirely 

new generation of composers, imbued with a 



high and noble ideal, and differing in many 
essentials from their predecessors. Previous to 
this the voice of Berlioz remained that of one 
crying in the desert, unheeded and scoffed at. 
The author of the " Symphonic Fantastique " 
had come too soon, and, moreover, was 
altogether too thorough in his ideas and devoid 
of any spirit of compromise. The pen of the 
critic, which he wielded with such a conspicuous 
amount of success, was too often dipped in gall, 
and the shafts of sarcasm which he unremit- 
tingly hurled at his enemies kept their rancour 
alive, and mayhap did something to prevent even 
a moderate amount of fair criticism from being 
meted to his musical compositions. Although 
not a reformer in the same sense, Gounod 
nevertheless contrived, in a quieter and less 
obtrusive manner, to impose certain innovations 
without offending the prejudices of the partisans 
of the older style of operatic music. To us 
nowadays it seems difficult to realise that an 
opera so full of melody as " Faust " should have 
seemed at all unduly complicated, but so it 


appears to have been thought, and the Parisians 
of thirty years ago concentrated their admiration 
upon the lighter portions, and looked askance at 
the rest. These same Parisians were destined 
two years later to show the measure of their 
musical aptitudes by the disgraceful manner in 
which they received Wagner's "Tannhaiiser" 
on the occasion of the memorable performances 
of this work at the Opera in 1 86 1. At that 
period Gounod was professedly an admirer of 
the German master, although since then his 
opinions seem to have become sensibly modi- 
fied. It is necessary to remember that "Wagner 
was only known then as the author of " Tann- 
haiiser" and "Lohengrin," and as holding 
certain heterodox views upon dramatic art. 

After the fiasco of " Tannhaiiser " Gounod 
appealed to the detractors of the master, and 
gave them rendezvous in ten years' time be- 
fore the same work and the same man, when, 
he said, they would lift their hats to them both. 
It has required somewhat more than ten years 
for this, but the Parisians have gone even 


further now than Gounod, and possibly the 
popularity of Wagner in Paris may eventually 
equal, if it does not surpass, that of the 
composer of '^ Faust." 

Within a year after the production of this 
last work, a new opera by Gounod was brought 
out at the Theatre Lyrique. "Philemon et 
Baucis/' played for the first time on February 
1 8th, i860, is a graceful and delicate little 
score, that has remained popular in France and 
only recently has obtained a fair measure of 
success in London, where it was produced by 
Sir Augustus Harris at Covent Garden in 1891. 

This pleasing work belongs entirely to the 
Opera Comique genre, and consists of a 
number of detached pieces connected together 
through the means of spoken dialogue. In 
writing it Gounod evidently did not trouble 
himself about questions of operatic reform, but 
was content with filling in the framework 
provided for him, and allowing his ideas to flow 
naturally. There is nothing forced in this 
melodious little opera. Everything is pure and 


limpid as crystal. Putting aside all aesthetic 
considerations as to the somewhat old-fashioned 
form in which the composer's ideas are 
expressed, it is impossible not to feel charmed 
by their refinement and delicacy. 

" La Colombe," a little comic opera given at 
Baden in i860, and later on at the Opera 
Comique, is comparatively of little importance. 
A charming entr'acte still occasionally finds 
its way into concert programmes. A work of 
larger dimensions was " La Reine de Saba," 
produced on February 28th, 1862, the third 
opera written by Gounod for the Grand Opera. 

The music of this work is unequal, and the 
libretto devoid of interest. There are, how- 
ever, certain numbers that have survived the 
wreck of this ill-fated score, which has been 
somewhat too harshly condemned. Amongst 
these may be mentioned the air, "Plus grand 
dans son obscurite" (which has remained a 
favourite with dramatic prime donne), the 
graceful women's chorus at the beginning of 
the second act, the characteristic ballet music, 


and the grand march. These last two extracts 
have become popular, and form part of all pro- 
perly constituted concert repertoires. At the 
period when this opera was produced, the 
peculiar disease known as " Wagnerophobia " 
was raging in Paris, and every composer with 
something new to say was gratified with the 
epithet Wagnerian, which was held to be a term 
of contumely, implying absence of melodic ideas 
and want of inspiration. 

There is not much in the "Reine de Saba" 
that suggests the influence of the German 
master, except a passing reminiscence of 
" Tannhaiiser," but at that time people did not 
look too closely into these matters. The score 
was both long and monotonous, it did not con- 
tain too plentiful a proportion of sops to the 
singers, and it was forthwith pronounced to be 
Wagnerian, an expression as condemnatory in 
its intention as its real meaning was little under- 
stood. Gounod himself laid great store upon 
his work, and being met a short time after its 
production by a musical critic at Baden, he told 


him that he was travelHng on account of a 
family bereavement. "I have lost," he said, 
"a woman whom I loved deeply, the Queen of 

Only those who know the amount of labour 
involved in the composition of a five-act opera 
can measure the disappointment that must 
accrue to its author on finding that his work 
has failed to satisfy that agglomeration of en- 
tities known as the public. "La Reine de 
Saba " was more successful in Brussels than in 
Paris, and was well received in Germany, where, 
however, it has been dethroned in favour of the 
far finer work by Goldmark bearing the same 
name. It has also been heard in London 
under the title of "Irene." 

The opera of "Mireille," played for the first 
time at the Theatre Lyrique in 1864, and intro- 
duced to the notice of the English public at 
Her Majesty's Theatre during the same year, is 
one of Gounod's most characteristic produc- 
tions in the way that it illustrates the com- 
poser's quahties and defects perhaps as much 


as anything he has done. The poem upon 
which it is founded is the " Mireio " of 
Frederick Mistral, the celebrated Provencal 
poet. It is a pastoral, and as such necessarily 
appealed irresistibly to a composer who is 
never so happy as when treating a subject of 
this kind. 

The story is simple enough, and is thus con- 
densed by Mons. Pagnerre, Gounod's clever 
biographer, to whose work I may refer those 
amongst my readers who seek for further infor- 
mation upon the composer's Hfe : " A rich 
young girl, a poor young man, an ill-fated 
love ; and death of the young girl through 

This tragic denoiieuient was subsequently 
altered, and, according to the latest version of 
the opera, Mireille lives presumably to enjoy 
connubial bliss with her lover. 

Gounod has been less happy in his treatment 
of the essentially dramatic portions of the story 
than in those in which the lyrical element pre- 
dominates. The general colour of his score is 


quite in keeping with a subject dealing with 
Provengale life, although it can scarcely be said 
that he has proved so successful in this respect 
as Bizet has in his music to Alphonse Daudet's 
" L'Arlesienne." 

Notwithstanding this, there are many charm- 
ing pages in " Mireille," strongly marked with 
the composer's individuality, suggestive of warm 
sunshine and southern skies. If the opera is 
emphatically a disappointment when considered 
as a whole, if it absolutely fails to carry con- 
viction as a musical drama, if it is full of con- 
tradictions of style and concessions to the 
vocalist, it may at least claim to be replete with 
melody of a refined nature and to contain 
several numbers that are always heard with 
pleasure. The melodious duet, "Oh Magali 
ma bienaimee," has been one of the chief items 
in the repertoire of tenors and sopranos 
during the last five-and-twenty years, and has 
been massacred by numberless amateurs in 
countless drawing-rooms. 

The overture is a delightfully fresh composi- 


tion of a pastoral nature, and serves as a fitting 
prelude to the story. For some reason, best 
known to himself^ Gounod has written two 
endings to this, the first of which is immeasur- 
ably superior, which is probably the reason why 
the second is usually played. In the first act 
the composer has introduced a vocal waltz of 
the same type as the one he was subsequently 
to place in the mouth of Juliet, both being 
evidently written for the purpose of giving 
Mme. Carvalho, the creatrix of these parts, the 
opportunity of indulging in vocal acrobatics. 
Such concessions to the exigencies of the singer 
are much to be deplored. 

Amongst the most noticeable numbers in 
" Mireille " I would mention, in addition to 
those I have already singled out, the opening 
chorus of the first act, the "couplets" of 
Ourrias, so often sung in our concert rooms 
by Mr. Santley, the " Musette," the shepherd's 
song, and Mireille's air, " Heureux petit berger." 
This opera was originally in five acts ; it was 
then reduced to three, and restored to five, with 


certain modifications, on the occasion of its 
revival at the Op^ra Comique in 1874. 

If Gounod had not succeeded since his 
" Faust " in producing any work that could bear 
comparison with this masterpiece (however 
creditable in their way the operas that had 
followed it might be), he was destined in 
" Romeo and Juliet " to be more fortunate, and 
to wed music to Shakespeare's story, that many 
of his admirers have not scrupled to place upon 
the same level as the former work. With this 
estimate 1 am by no means disposed to agree, 
although I should be inclined to consider 
" Romeo " as occupying the second place in 
the list of the composer's dramatic works. 

Shakespeare's wondrous tragedy had already 
been set to music by several composers,* 
amongst whom it will be sufficient to mention 
Dalayrac, Steibelt, Zingarelli, Vaccai, Bellini, 

"" Dalayrac ; b. 1753, d. 1809. Steibelt ; b. 1764, 
d. 1823. Zingarelli; b. 1752, d. 1837. Vaccai; 
b. 1791, d. 1849. Bellini; b. 1802, d. 1835. Mar- 
chetti ; b. 1831. Marquis d' I vry; b. 1829. 


and Marchetti. An opera by the Marquis 
d'lvry, entitled " Les Amants de Verone," on 
the same theme, although written before the 
production of Gounod's work, was brought 
out in Paris in 1878 with Capoul as Romeo. 
It may be well to point out also that, by a 
curious coincidence, Gounod once more chose 
a subject that had been treated by Berlioz, 
whose symphony of " Romeo and Juliet " 
remains one of his greatest works. 

In her interesting biography of Gounod, Mdlle. 
de Bovet makes the following apt observations : 
" ' Faust,' as we have seen, is remarkable for its 
homogeneity, the happy outcome of the sub- 
ordination of the fantastic to the emotional 
element. It is not possible to say that all the 
parts of * Romeo et Juliette ' are linked by so 
close a bond, and this could not well have been 
so. All Jules Barbier's cleverness could not 
make the plot other than a love duet, or rather 
a succession of love duets." 

It is this fact that accounts in a measure for 
the tinge of monotony noticeable in this opera. 
81 F 


When Mons. A. Jullien very truly remarks 
that of all musicians Gounod is the one whose 
ideas, method, and style vary the least, he 
strikes a vulnerable point in the composer's 
armour. Thus the duets in " Romeo " have 
appeared to many people as attenuated versions 
of the love music in " Faust." Not that the 
themes in themselves bear any appreciable like- 
ness one to another, but that the general cha- 
racteristics and harmonic colouring are similar. 
To many this will appear an additional evidence 
of powerful individuality, whereas others will 
see in it an element of weakness. "Wagner has 
proved that it is possible to write love duets 
totally distinct in conception one from the other, 
yet bearing the impress of the same hand, in 
"Lohengrin," "Die Walkiire," "Tristan," and 
" Siegfried." 

Although the love music of " Romeo " cannot 
compare with that of " Faust," yet there is no 
denying the charm that pervades it. Over- 
sentimental and apt to cloy, it is eminently 
poetical and full of melody. If we miss the 



note of true passion, we find in its stead a fund 
of tenderness. The prelude, or prologue, in 
which the characters are seen grouped upon the 
stage, is altogether happily conceived and novel 
in point of form. There is little in the first act 
that calls for much notice, with the exception of 
the clever song for Mercutio, *' La Reine Mab," 
and the graceful two-voiced madrigal. The 
vocal waltz to which I have previously alluded 
is out of place in a work of this kind. The 
second act contains the balcony scene, and is 
conceived in a delicate and refined vein well 
adapted to the situation. The music throughout 
is suave and charming. There is nothing par- 
ticularly noticeable in the treatment of the 
marriage scene in the cell of Brother Law- 

During the next scene we witness the famous 
quarrels in which Mercutio and Tybalt are killed. 
The influence of Meyerbeer is strongly marked 
here, although the music lacks the dramatic force 
which is so prominent in the works of the com- 
poser of the " Huguenots." The finale to 


this, with its impassioned tenor solo, is highly 

Gounod is once more in his element in the 
fourth act, which contains the celebrated love 
duet, " Nuit d'Hymenee," and in the phrase 
" Non ce n'est pas le jour " he strikes a note of 
genuine inspiration. 

The charming orchestral movement accom- 
panying the sleep of Juliet and the final love 
duet bring us to the end of the numbers 
demanding special attention. 

" Romeo " proved successful in France from 
the outset, whereas in England it failed to 
maintain itself in the operatic repertoire for a 
number of years, notwithstanding the appearance 
of Mme. Patti as Juliet. Recently it has acquired 
an undoubted popularity, owing possibly in part 
to Mons. Jean de Reszke's assumption of the 
principal character. 

Alike to " Faust," " Romeo " has also been 

transferred to the repertoire of the Grand Opera. 

It is in these two works that the essence of the 

master's genius would appear to be concentrated. 



Gounod having been successful in his treat- 
ment of works by Moliere, Goethe, and Shake- 
speare, now turned his attention to Corneille, 
whose " Polyeucte " exercised an irresistible 
fascination over his mind. 

Several events, however, were destined to 
transpire before this work was to be brought to a 

The Franco -German war broke out, and 
Gounod, who was past the age to serve his 
country in a military capacity, took refuge in 
England. During his sojourn in London he 
composed the cantata " Gallia," inspired by the 
troubles that had befallen his native land. This 
work was written for the inaguration of the Royal 
Albert Hall, where it was performed for the first 
time on May ist, 187 1. On this occasion 
four composers were asked to contribute to 
the solemnity. Sir Arthur Sullivan represented 
England, Gounod France, Pinsuti Italy, and 
Ferdinand Hiller Germany. Gounod entitled 
his work a " biblical elegy." It met with success 
in London, and was subsequently performed in 


Paris. The best portion of "Gallia" is the 
effective /■;/<?/(? for soprano and chorus, "Jeru- 
salem." Gounod was at that time working at 
his " Polyeucte," and was also engaged upon the 
" Redemption." Mrs. Weldon was to take the 
principal part in the first of these works. 

Whilst in London Gounod composed a great 
deal. In addition to " Gallia " he wrote several 
choral works and a quantity of songs. Amongst 
these last may be mentioned such popular 
favourites as " Maid of Athens," " Oh that we two 
were maying," " There is a green hill far away," 
" The Worker," " The fountain mingles with the 
river," and the fascinating duet entitled, " Bar- 
carolle." The " Funeral march of a Marionette " 
also dates from this epoch, as does the charm- 
ing " Recueil " of songs entitled " Biondina," 
instinct with southern spirit. It may be amusing 
to peruse his opinion of English musical feeling, 
as recorded by Mdlle. de Bovet : "When one 
sees Englishmen attentively follow the execution 
of a score, as grave and solemn as if they were 
fulfilling an austere duty ; then suddenly, as if 


a spring had been touched, raise their heads and 
with beaming faces exclaim, ' Oh, how nice ! 
very beautiful indeed !' and again bury themselves 
in their book as gravely and solemnly as before, 
one cannot help thinking that they are would-be 
rather than real musicians. They are actuated 
by British pride, because their artistic taste must 
be superior to the taste of other nations, just as 
their navy is more powerful and their cotton and 
flannel of better quality." 

The opera " Polyeucte," which was terminated 
in London, was not brought out until October 7, 
1878. Previous to this Gounod had set to 
music an operatic version of Alfred de Vigny's 
" Cinq Mars," given for the first time at the 
Paris Opera Comique on April 5, 1877, which 
may be classed among his weakest productions. 
It bears manifest signs of haste. Apart from a 
suave " cantilena," " Nuit resplendissante," and 
some graceful ballet music, there is little in 
" Cinq Mars " that calls for notice. 

Gounod was not much luckier with his 
" Polyeucte," over which he had devoted so 


much thought and labour. This opera, which 
savours rather of the oratorio, was not particu- 
larly suited to the stage of the Grand Opera, 
notwithstanding the introduction of a set ballet, 
very charming in its way, but utterly unfit for 
the subject. A gorgeous viise e?i scene and an 
admirable interpretation did not save it from 
failure. Out of this elaborate and unequal score 
it is possible to detach certain pages that are 
worthy of the illustrious name by which they are 
signed, but the work in its ejisemhle is thoroughly 
disappointing. Gounod seems after "Romeo" 
to have adopted an entirely retrograde style of 
composition in his operas, and to have receded 
with each new operatic attempt. 

If " Cinq Mars " and " Polyeucte " were both 
destined to accentuate this fact, " Le Tribut de 
Zamora," given at the Grand Opera in 1881, 
confirmed it without further doubt. This last 
work is certainly one of his least interesting 
operas, not so much in respect of want of ideas, 
as from the fact of its being constiucted upon 
old and obsolete models. Gounod has pursued 


an absolutely contrary course to that adopted by 
Wagner and Verdi, for whereas these masters 
have produced their greatest works at a compa- 
ratively advanced period of their lives, the 
composer of " Faust " has lost ground at each 
successive production. In saying this I allude 
especially to his operas. Mons. Adolphe Jullien, 
in an article on the " Tribut de Zamora," makes 
the following apt remarks : " Generally speak- 
ing, musicians as they advance in their career 
obtain renewed strength, and follow an upward 
course — at any rate, as long as they have not 
attained old age. It is even the case with cer- 
tain musicians, such as Rossini and Verdi, that 
a revelation at a later stage of their career en- 
ables them to perceive a new ideal, which they 
endeavour to attain, with more or less success, 
according to the amount of genius they possess; 
even for the one who is unable to reach his aim, 
it is always a merit to have had it in view. 
There is nothing of this in M. Gounod. After 
the long period of rest that followed the pro- 
duction of his best works, from '■ Faust ' to 


* Romeo,' he has re-entered the career with 
ideas absolutely modified as regards dramatic 
music ; he has returned straight to the old type 
of opera comique and opera, carefully cutting up 
each act into airs and recitatives, each romance 
or melody into short square periods, simplifying 
the orchestral accompaniment as much as pos- 
sible, and subordinating it to the voices, which 
it often doubles. According to this retro- 
grade system he has written his last operas, 
' Cinq Mars,' ' Polyeucte,' and ' Le Tribut 
de Zamora,' whilst the young French musicians 
taking his earlier works as their starting-point, 
were endeavouring to add to the refinement of 
his orchestration, and to treat each act as a 
vocal and orchestral symphony. There can be 
no doubt that it is to this that the dramatic 
music of the present day tends, and it is all the 
more strange to see M. Gounod going against 
this irresistible movement that he has been one 
of the first to help." 

Before taking leave of the master as a dra- 
matic composer it is necessary to mention a 


musical version of Moliere's " Georges Dandin," 
which has never been performed, and may 
possibly be still unfinished. The peculiarity of 
this work consists in the fact of the music being 
composed to Moliere's actual prose. In a pre- 
face destined to precede the above opera, 
Gounod has exposed his ideas with a consider- 
able amount of ingenuity regarding the supe- 
riority he considers that prose possesses over 
verse for operatic purposes. It is to be hoped 
that an opportunity may some time or other be 
offered to the public of judging the practical 
value of these theories by the production of 
" Georges Dandin." According to Gounod, the 
substitution of prose for verse opens to the musi- 
cian "an entirely new horizon, which rescues 
him from monotony and uniformity." The 
question, it may be added, had already been 
mooted by Berlioz, who expressed himself 
favourable to the employment of prose in an 
article published in 1858. 

There remain two important compositions of 
Gounod's to be mentioned, both of which natu- 


rally possess great interest to the British public, 
having been heard for the first time in England. 
" The Redemption," which was produced at the 
Birmingham Festival of 1882, has obtained a 
great and lasting success amongst us. It forms 
part of the current repertoire of the Royal Choral 

Gounod has preceded the score of what he 
terms a sacred "trilogy" with a few explanatory 
words. He describes his work as being the ex- 
pression of the three great events upon which 
rest the existence of Christianity : (i) The Passion 
and death of the Saviour ; (2) His glorious life 
on earth between His resurrection and ascension; 
(3) The diffusion of Christianity throughout the 
world by the apostolical mission. These three 
parts of the " trilogy " are preceded by a pro- 
logue on the Creation, the first Fall, and the 
promise of a Redeemer. This is, indeed, an 
ambitious programme, and it is scarcely to be 
wondered at that Gounod should not have suc- 
ceeded altogether in realising it. The music 
rarely approaches the grandeur and depth of 


expression requisite for an adequate interpreta- 
tion of such a theme. It is full of sensuousness 
and mystic charm, but although containing seve- 
ral numbers of undeniable beauty, the effect of 
the work as a whole is decidedly monotonous. 
Having dedicated the " Redemption " to Queen 
Victoria, Gounod dedicated " Mors et Vita," a 
sacred " trilogy " produced at the Birmingham 
Festival of 1885, to Pope Leo XIII. This com- 
panion work to the " Redemption " is at least 
equally ambitious in its scope. The first part 
consists of a " Requiem," the second is descrip- 
tive of the Judgment, and the last deals with 
Eternal Life. Hence its title, " Mors et Vita." 
This work has not obtained the same popularity 
in England as the " Redemption," to which I 
personally am inclined to prefer it. 

Having arrived thus far in the composer's life, 
I will have to content myself with the bare 
mention of works, such as the incidental music 
written by him to " Les Deux Reines," " Jeanne 
D'Arc," and "Les Drames Sacres." Gounod is 
also the author of two symphonies, composed at 


an early stage of his career, several masses, and 
other religious works. As a song-writer he has 
greatly distinguished himself, and his melodies 
have long been the delight of vocalists all the 
world over. Amongst these is one that deserves 
special mention and has probably done more to 
popularise his name than the majority of his 
larger works. I allude to the famous " Ave 
Maria," composed upon the first prelude of 
Bach. A facetious Teuton a year or two ago 
published a book purporting to contain biogra- 
phies of great musicians. His sketch of Bach 
runs thus : " John vSebastian Bach owes his 
great reputation almost entirely to the fortunate 
circumstance that he received a commission to 
write the accompaniment to a famous melody 
by Gounod. ^Vith a most incomprehensible 
impertinence he also published his accom- 
paniment, without Gounod's melody, as a so- 
called 'prelude,' together with a number of 
small pieces under the title of ' Wohltemperirte 
Clavier,' but the book had little success, on 
account of its silly title, among the admirers of 


the melody. His numerous sons are, to the 
annoyance of historians, also called Bach." 

Gounod has lately attempted to improve (?) 
another of Bach's preludes, but with indifferent 
results. Such things are not to be repeated. 
Amongst his other songs it is only necessary to 
mention at random such exquisite gems as 
the " Serenade," " Medje," '' Le Vallon," " Le 
Printemps," "Au Printemps," "Priere," "Ce 
que je suis sans toi," &c., in order to revive the 
most delightful recollections. Occasionally the 
composer of " Faust " has been tempted to 
express his views upon art and artists. Of late 
years he has exhibited an exuberant admiration 
for Mozart, upon whose "Don Juan" he has 
written a pamphlet abounding in expressions of 
the most dithyrambic description. In a preface 
to the " Lettres Intimes " of Berlioz, he expresses 
his great admiration for that master. He 
has also written two interesting and eulogistic 
notices of Saint-Saens's " Henry VHI." and 
' Ascanio." 
Composers are proverbially bad judges of 


each other's works. This is probably due to the 
fact that every composer looks upon his art from 
a special point of view, and is often unable to 
appreciate works that are constructed upon 
different lines to his own. Every one knows 
the manner in which Weber and Spohr criticised 
Beethoven, and how Schubert was unable to 
perceive the beauties of Weber's " Euryanthe." 
Meyerbeer fared badly at the hands of Mendels- 
sohn, Schumann, and Wagner. The last-named 
has been freely condemned by many of his 
contemporaries. Nevertheless, there is a decided 
attraction in hearing the opinion of one creative 
artist about another, and Gounod's ideas con- 
cerning some of the great musicians are worth 
recording. We are already aware of his boundless 
enthusiasm for Mozart, whom he terms "the 
first, the only one." Bach and Beethoven have 
also exercised their sway upon him, and both 
these masters run the composer of " Don 
Giovanni" hard in Gounod's estimation. He 
is reported to have one day expressed him- 
self in the following terms concerning Bach : 


" If the greatest masters, Beethoven, Haydn, 
Mozart, were to be annihilated by an un- 
foreseen cataclysm, in the same manner in 
which the painters might be through a fire, it 
would be easy to reconstitute the whole of music 
with Bach. Dans le del de Fart^ Bach est une 
nebuleuse qui ne s' est pas encore condensee.^^ 

According to Mdlle. de Bovet, " Rossini is in 
Gounod's estimation the most limpid, broad, 
and lofty of lyric authors " — after Mozart be it 
said. This certainly would seem to upset my 
theory that a composer is not able to appreciate 
works conceived after different methods to his 
own, for what operas could possibly be more 
opposed in style than say " Semiramide " or 
" La Gazza Ladra " and " Faust ? " Certainly, 
if we read the following passage in Mdlle. de 
Bovet's book we find that Gounod considers 
that Rossini's work " is summed up in two 
masterpieces of strangely opposite character, 
♦ II Barbiere di Seviglia ' and ' Guillaume Tell,' " 
which possibly qualifies the force of the preceding 
passage. His appreciation of Berlioz is curious. 
97 G 


According to Gounod, the composer of the 
''Romeo and Juliet " symphony is "fantastical 
and emotional ; he suffers, he weeps, he grows 
desperate, or loses his head. The personal side 
of things seizes hold of him : he has been called 
the Jupiter of music. Granted ; but a Jupiter 
who stumbles, a god who is a slave to his 
passions and his transports ; but withal possess- 
ing masterly qualities : a marvellous colourist, he 
handles orchestration — which is the musician's 
palette — with a sure and powerful grasp. And 
then we come suddenly amongst remarkable 
passages, upon mistakes, awkward bits, betraying 
a tardy and faulty education — in short, an 
incomplete genius." As regards Wagner, the 
composer of " Faust " prefers to keep his opinion 
to himself, or at any rate only to deliver it in 
words the ambiguity of which fit them for an 
illustration of the saying that La parole a ete 
donnee a Fhomme potir cacher sa pensee. 

Gounod inhabits a handsome house in Paris. 
Mdlle. de Bovet has given the following interest- 
ing description of his study, which I will take 


the liberty of reproducing : " It is an immense 
apartment, rising the height of two floors, lit by 
a broad window with light-stained glass ; it is 
panelled with oak and vaulted like a church. 
And is it not the sanctuary of art? At the 
further extremity, on a platform reached by 
several low steps, stands a large organ by 
Cavaille Coll ; the bellows are worked by a 
hydraulic machine in the basement. A medallion 
representing a head of Christ is placed in the 
centre of the instrument. The writing-table, 
under the stained-glass window, is one of those 
composite ones used by musicians, a movable 
keyboard sliding backwards and forwards under 
the desk at will. The Renaissance mantelpiece 
in wood, richly carved in high relief representing 
scenes of the Passion, is decorated with a bronze 
medallion of Joan of Arc and massive iron 
ornaments. In the centre of the room is a 
large grand piano by Pleyel. One side is 
filled with bookcases — works on Theology and 
Philosophy occupying a conspicuous place — 
and with musical scores ; amongst these, the 


collection of ancient ones inherited by Gounod 
from his father-in-law is extremely valuable." 
" In this immense room," writes Mons. Pagnerre, 
" the author of ' Faust ' can often be seen, clad 
in black velvet, with a loose cravat round his 
neck, and his feet imprisoned in small slippers 
fit for a woman. There is ever something 
feminine about Gounod. His conversation is 
charming and persuasive. The musician is a 
witty and eloquent conversationalist. His 
physiognomy is mobile, his voice is soft, and 
when he speaks it is like music." 

The individuality of a great composer is ever 
attractive to his admirers, and when in addition 
to his gifts as a creator he possesses that peculiar 
qualification known as "personal magnetism," 
their enthusiasm occasionally causes them to 
outstep the bounds of common-sense. It is 
especially members of the fair sex who are 
prone to indulge in exaggerated expressions of 
hero-worship. The emotional nature of music 
causes it to appeal to their minds with such 
intensity that they make a fetish of their idol, 


and fall down and worship not only him but 
everything he touches and looks upon. There 
are plenty of most amusing incidents on record 
which might be cited in support of this. Amongst 
these I will mention the following, concerning 
which it may be said, Se non e vero e be?i 
trovato : 

A story is told of a lady admirer of his who 
once paid him a visit. Noticing a cherry-stone 
on the mantelpiece, she annexed it, took it 
home and had it set by a jeweller as a brooch, 
surrounded by diamonds and pearls. Paying 
a visit to Gounod some weeks later the lady 
drew attention to* her act of reverence, when 
Gounod said: "But, madam, I never eat cherries; 
the stone you found on the mantelpiece was 
from a cherry eaten by my servant Jean ! 
Tableau ! 

In summing up the qualifications of a great 
composer — and as such there can be no doubt 
that Gounod must be reckoned — it is evidently 
better to dwell upon that which he has actually 


achieved than upon what he may have left 

The composer of " Faust " has imprinted his 
mark in an unmistakable manner upon his 
epoch. He has struck a note that had not 
previously been heard, and if he has perhaps 
reiterated this note somewhat too frequently, 
thereby attenuating its effect, the credit of 
having been the first to employ it must not be 
refused to him. 

Mons. Adolphe JuUien judges him severely 
when he says that the more he has had occasion 
to hear and study his works, the more con- 
vinced he has become that Gounod possesses 
the genius of assimilation. According to him, 
the greatness of Gounod's talent is derived 
through the study of the works of all the mas- 
ters, and especially of those of Bach, Handel, 
Schumann, and Berlioz. This I consider open 
to doubt. That Gounod has studied the works 
of his predecessors and profited thereby is evi- 
dent, but this has been the case with all 
musicians. Something more is required to 



compose a work such as " Faust " ; that some- 
thing which is the appanage of but few com- 
posers, and which is known as " individuaHty." 

Mons. Arthur Pougin, in his Supplement to 
Fetis's " Dictionnaire des Musiciens," thus de- 
scribes the genius of Gounod : " Musically and 
as regards the theatre, M. Gounod is more 
spiritualistic than materialistic, more of a poet 
than a painter, more elegiac and more nervous 
than truly pathetic. It is perhaps this that 
has caused people to say that he lacked dramatic 
feeling ; those who have expressed themselves 
thus have been mistaken, for it is not the 
dramatic feeling — that is to say, la perceptio7i 
passioiik — which Gounod occasionally wants, 
but rather the temperament. At the same time, 
the author of ' Faust,' ' Romeo,' ' Le M^decin 
Malgre Lui,' remains a true poet, an inspired 
creator, an artist of the first rank and of high 

The essence of the master's genius is con- 
tained in " Faust." Although since then he has 
composed many works of great merit, yet he has 


never been inspired to a similar degree. He 
may have abused certain formulas, and employed 
the same devices ad naHsea??i, but at any rate 
he can claim them as his own. It is not his 
fault if his imitators have reproduced his man- 
nerisms to so great an extent. 

Ernest Reyer once remarked that every one 
nowadays wrote music in the style of Gounod. 
"So far," added the witty Academician, "it is 
still that of Gounod himself that I prefer." 
This opinion, I venture to think, will probably 
be endorsed by my readers. 

I cannot better terminate this notice on the 
composer of " Faust " than by reproducing the 
following sonnet addressed to him by Camille 
Saint-Saens : 

" Son art a la douceur, h ton des vieux pastels 
Toujours il adora vos voluptcs hhiies, 
Cloches saintes, concert des orgues, purs autels ; 
De son ceil clair, il voit les beautes infinies. 

Sur sa lyre d'ivoire, avec les Polymnies, 
II dit I'hymne pai'en, cher aux Dieux immortels. 
'Faust,' qui met dans sa mam le sceptre des genies 
Egale les Juan, les Raoul et les Tell. 


De Shakespeare et de Goethe il (lore V aureole ; 
Sa voix a rehausse Vcclat de leur parole, 
Leiir mivre de sa fiamme a garde le reflet. 
Echos du Mont Olympe, i-chos du Paraclet 
Sont redis par sa Muse aux langtietirs de Creole, 
Telle vibre a tons les vents nne harpe d'Eole." 



There probably does not exist a living composer 
who is gifted with a musical organisation so 
complete as that of Camille Saint-Saens. A 
perfect master of his craft, the French composer 
has contributed his quota to every branch of his 
art, and may truly be said to have distinguished 
himself in each. An eclectic in the highest 
sense of the word, Saint-Saens has attempted 
every style and form, disseminating his works 
right and left with seemingly reckless prodigality. 
Never at a loss for an idea, invariably correct and 
often imaginative, going from a piano concerto 
to an opera, and from a cantata to a symphonic 
poem with disconcerting ease, composing rapidly, 
yet never exhibiting any trace of slovenly work- 
manship, finding time in the meanwhile to dis- 


tinguish himself as organist and pianist, and to 
wield the pen of the critic, the astonishing capa- 
bilities of this wonderfully gifted musician may 
be put down as absolutely unique. His eclec- 
ticism may indeed be said to have been with 
him both a source of strength and weakness, 
for reasons which I shall propose to examine 
later on. Before endeavouring to formulate 
an opinion upon his multifarious works, a 
few biographical notes will not be out of 

Camille Saint-Saens was born on October 9, 
1835. He lost his father when a child, and was 
brought up by his mother and his great-aunt, 
thanks to whose combined care he was able to 
battle against the natural delicacy of his consti- 
tution. Many anecdotes are related concerning 
the precocity of his musical development, and 
the ease with which he mastered those first 
principles of his art which usually appear so 
trying to the youthful mind. 

One day, when he was at play, a visitor hav- 
ing been ushered into the adjoining room, the 


child, in listening to his footsteps, gravely 
observed, to the amusement of those present : 
"That gentleman in walking marks a crotchet 
and a quaver." The visitor in question walked 
with a limp. 

It was from his great-aunt that he learnt the 
elements of music. Later on, he studied the 
piano under Stamaty,* and composition under 
Maleden, subsequently entering the Conserva- 
toire in the class presided over by Halevy. 

In 1852 he competed without success for the 
" Prix de Rome," and that same year witnessed 
tht^ production of his first symphony by the 
Societe de Sainte-Cecile under Seghers. 

Twelve years later, he once more entered the 
lists, but again failed, and the prize was awarded 
to Victor Sieg.t 

Saint-Saens was luckier in 1867, when his 
cantata " Les Noces de Promethee " was 
allotted the first place in a competition organ- 
ised for a work to be performed on the occasion 
of the opening of the International Exhibition. 

*■ B. 181 1 ; d. 1870. t Victor Sieg, b. 1837. 


No less than one hundred and two musicians 
competed for the prize. Berhoz wrote as follows 
to his friend Ferrand concerning the success 
achieved by Saint-Saens : " On avait entendu les 
jours precedents cent quatre cantates, et j'ai eu 
le plaisir de voir couronner (a I'unanimite) celle 
de mon jeune ami Camille Saint-Saens, Fun des 

plus grands musiciens de notre epoque 

Je suis tout emu de notre seance du jury ! 
Comme Saint-Saens va etre heureux ! j'ai couru 
chez lui lui annoncer la chose, il etait sorti avec 
sa mere. C'est un maitre pianiste foudroyant. 
Enfin ! voila done une chose de bon sens faite 
dans notre monde musical. Cela m'a donne de 
la force ; je ne vous aurais pas ecrit si longue- 
ment sans cette joie."^ 

A curious incident is related as having 
occurred on the occasion of this competition. 
The works sent in naturally did not bear the 
names of their authors, and many of the judges 
seemed to imagine that Saint-Saens' cantata, 
which was far ahead of the others in point of 

t " Lettres Intimes. " 


merit, was by a foreigner. This caused the 
veteran Auber to make the following remark : 
"Je voudrais etre certain que I'auteur de ces 
' Noces ' soit un Frangais. C'est un symphoniste 
si sur de ses moyens, si franc du collier, d'allure 
si libre, que je ne vois pas chez nous son 

The fact of Saint-Saens having sent his score 
from London led some of his judges to imagine 
that they were voting for Sir Julius (then Mr.) 

Saint-Saens had been named organist at the 
church of Saint Merry when only seventeen years 
of age, and in 1858 was appointed to a similar 
post at the Madeleine, in succession to Lefebure 
Wely.* He relinquished this position in 1877, 
finding that he had not sufficient time to devote 
to his duties, and was succeeded by Theodore 
Dubois.t In the meanwhile, the reputation of 
Saint-Saens as a pianist had been spreading, 
and during frequent journeys over Europe he 

* Lefebure Wely, b. 181 7 ; d. 1870. 
t See last chapter. 


invariably met with great success wherever he 

The opinion of one artist concerning another 
is ever interesting, and the following words of 
Hans von Biilow, written in 1859, will give an 
idea of the esteem in which the great German 
pianist held his French colleague : " There does 
not exist a monument of art of whatsoever 
country, school, or epoch, that Saint-Saens has 
not thoroughly studied. When we came to talk 
about the symphonies of Schumann, I was most 
astonished to hear him reproduce them on the 
piano with such an amount of facility and 
exactitude that I remained dumbfounded in 
comparing this prodigious memory with my 
own, which is thought so much of. In talking 
with him I saw that nothing was unknown to 
him, and what made him appear still greater in 
my eyes was the sincerity of his enthusiasm and 
his great modesty." It must be recollected that 
at that time Schumann was comparatively little 
known in France. Testimony of this kind 
coming from a musician like Hans von Biilow 


is indeed precious. We have already seen what 
Auber and Berlioz thought of Saint-Saens, it 
remains to record the opinions emitted by Wagner 
and Gounod. 

The composer of " Tristan," in a reunion 
consisting of several French artists who had 
journeyed to Switzerland to see him, drank to 
the health of Saint-Saens, whom he qualified 
as the "greatest living French composer." 

Gounod has never lost an opportunity of 
expressing his admiration for his friend's wonder- 
ful gifts, and has recorded his appreciation of 
the surprising versatility so often exhibited by 
Saint-Saens in the following words : " He could 
write at will a work in the style of Rossini, of 
Verdi, of Schumann, or of Wagner." 

Mons. Edouard Schure has endeavoured to 
trace the musical physiognomy of Saint-Saens in 
the following lines, occuring in the preface written 
by him to the interesting " Profils de Musiciens " 
of Mons. Hugues Imbert : "Personne ne possede 
plus a fond la science technique de la musique, 
personne ne connait mieux les maitres, de Bach 
113 H 


jusqu'a Liszt, a Brahms, et Rubinstein, personne 
ne manie plus habilement toutes les formes 
vocales et instrumentales. Mons. Saint-Saens 
peut dire : 'Rien de musical ne m'tst etranger.' 
II a aborde tour a tour tous les genres et presque 
avec un egal bonheur. On remarque chez lui 
une imagination souple et vive, une constante 
aspiration a la force, a la noblesse, a la majeste. 
De ses quatuors, de ses symphonies se detachent 
des echappees grandioses, des fusees trop vite 
evanouies. Mais il serait impossible de definir 
I'individualite' qui se detache de I'ensemble de 
son oeuvre. On n'y sent pas le tourment d'une 
ame, la poursuite d'un ideal. C'est le Protee 
multiforme et polyphone de la musique. Essayez 
de le saisir ; le voila qui se change en sirene. 
Vous etes sous le charme ? II se metamorphose 
en oiseau moqueur. Vous croyez le tenir enfin ? 
mais il monte dans les nuages en hypogriffe. 
Sa nature propre perce le mieux en certaines 
fantaisies spirituelles d'un caractere sceptique et 
mordant comme la ' Danse Macabre' et le 'Rouet 
d'Omphale.' " 



Saint-Saens is no stranger to us. His visits 
to London have been frequent, and his can- 
tata, "The Lyre and the Harp," was com- 
posed expressly for the Birmingham Festival 
of 1879. This very year, 1893, the University 
of Cambridge has paid homage to the greatness 
of the musician by conferring upon him the 
honorary degree of Doctor of Music. His first 
appearance in London was at the Musical Union 
in 187 1. He played at Philharmonic Concerts 
in 1874 and 1879, choosing Beethoven's concerto 
in G on the first occasion, and his own concerto 
in G minor on the second. He has also been 
heard at the Crystal Palace, and this year (1893) 
he again appeared at a Philharmonic Concert, 
playing the same concerto in G minor of his 
own composition, and conducting his symphonic 
poem, " Le Rouet d'Omphale." During one of 
his visits to London, some ten or twelve years 
ago, he met with an accident that might have 
had fatal results. He fell through an open trap- 
door, and received serious injuries to his back, 
from which he did not recover for a long while. 


Having promised to take part in an arrangement 
for eight hands of his " Marche Heroique," at 
a concert given by Sir JuHus Benedict, he 
somehow contrived to get on to the platform 
and perform his task, but when it came to 
acknowledge the applause of the audience he 
was unable to bend forward or bow, and had 
to slide off as best he could. As a pianist, 
Saint-Saens may be classed in the very first 
rank. His execution is prodigious, and his 
lightness of touch quite unique. He is, perhaps, 
heard at his best when interpreting Bach, with 
whose works he is as intimately acquainted as 
any living musician. 

Unfortunately, he now seriously contemplates 
giving up performing in public, not feeling 
anxious to continue after his powers are on the 
wane. The reason he alleges will scarcely be 
accepted as a good one, for so far there has been 
no falling off whatever in his execution. What 
is more likely is that he finds he has no time to 
practise. As a matter of fact he now rarely touches 
the instrument, and a paragraph that recently 


appeared in a paper to the effect that he was "in 
the habit of practising all day long, caused him 
to indulge in a prolonged fit of merriment. In 
his humorous way — for Saint-Saens is a humor- 
ist, comme il y en a pen — he told me that he con- 
sidered that an executant should know how to 
stop in time, and that he was not desirous of 
emulating the example of certain artists who 
went on giving concerts until they had com- 
pleted their allotted span of life, and were 
capable, even after their demise, of finding 
sufficient strength to announce a " posthumous 

In the course of his eventful career Saint- 
Saens has had some amusing experiences of the 
stupidity of those amateurs who pretend to be 
musical, and whose knowledge may be put down 

at zero. The Duchess de C once expressed 

the desire to hear him perform some strictly 
classical music. A party was organised, and 
none were invited but those whose musical pro- 
clivities were known to be of a serious order. 
Saint-Saens seated himself at the piano, and 


asked the Duchess de C , who was by his 

side, what she would wish him to play. There 
was a pause, the Duchess thought deeply, and 
suddenly turning towards him, said she would so 
like to hear the Miserere from the " TrovatoreP 

On another occasion he was asked by a lady 
who was giving a party to play something that 
would not be too difficult of comprehension. 
" Play a piece suitable for a pack of donkeys," 
she said. As it happened, Saint-Saens had just 
got up a " fantasia " upon Bellini's " Casta diva," 
one of those drawing-room show pieces utterly 
devoid of any musical value ; so he expressed 
himself ready to provide the required article. 
The evening arrived ; he sat down at the piano 
and duly went through his fireworks. The 
moment the piece was at an end, up jumped 
a gentleman, who was profuse in his expressions 
of delight, and warmly clasping the hostess's 
hand, exclaimed : " I am sure you got him to 
play this beautiful piece for my benefit ! " 

Having remarked at the beginning of this 
sketch that Saint-Saens had distinguished him 


self as a composer in every branch of his art, I 
will endeavour to allude briefly to those amongst 
his works that have contributed the most to 
ensure him the supremacy he now occupies 
amongst the musicians of his country, a supre- 
macy which is practically uncontested, if only 
for the reason of the universality of his gifts. 
Whereas other composers occupy, perhaps, an 
equal or even superior rank in some particular 
line, there is not one who has shown himself 
capable of shining in conspicuous fashion in so 
many varied styles. Mons. Gauthier Villars, in a 
clever article upon the composer, has remarked 
that there exist in Camille Saint-Saens " three 
men— three temperaments that influence one 
another. There is an ' absolute ' musician, a dra- 
matic musician, and a critic, whose polemics are 
always erudite, frequently witty, occasionally bitter 
and violent." These words will serve in a great 
measure to explain certain apparent inconsisten- 
cies that are noticeable in the composer's works. 
A thorough master of every technical detail of his 
art, a contrapuntist of unsurpassed excellence, 


a musician endowed with a prodigious facility of 
production, Camille Saint-Saens has not always 
been able to keep his productivity within due 
bounds. His sureness of hand enables him to 
complete a work in so short a time that he has 
not invariably given proof of that spirit of con- 
centration which shows itself in the compositions 
of some masters. With Saint-Saens it is the 
impulse of the moment that compels him to 
compose in one style or another. This will 
account for the fact that if in some cases his 
works betray a want of inspiration, yet they 
rarely smell of lamp oil, or seem unduly laboured. 
He is essentially a fantaisiste, careless of any 
preconceived plan, but exhibiting a wondrous 
command of musical resources, and a complete 
grasp over his subject. The themes he employs 
may sometimes lack character or distinction, yet 
no one knows better than he does how best to 
treat them, and by ingenious transformations to 
render them interesting. This applies more 
especially to his chamber music, of which the 
piano trio in F, op. i8, the piano quartet, 



op. 41, and the septet for trumpet, piano, and 
strings, op. 65, are perhaps the best examples. 
In these compositions the classical turn of mind, 
to which a happy admixture of modern elements 
lends additional charm, is very noticeable. This 
peculiar combination of the classical and the 
romantic is a special characteristic in the works 
of Saint-Saens, and is found in the majority of 
his productions. Jauus-like, he keeps one side 
of his head turned towards Bach, Handel, and 
Beethoven, whilst he finds means with the other 
of gazing at Liszt, Wagner, and Gounod. These 
masters have exercised a very marked influence 
upon his style. 

The simplicity of treatment and perfect clear- 
ness in the workmanship noticeable in his 
chamber music, form a distinct contrast to the 
complexities indulged in by that section of the 
modern German school represented by Brahms. 
The perfectly balanced nature of his mind, and 
his predilection for works of classic proportions, 
prevent Saint-Saens from ever falling into any 
musical aberrations of intellect. At the same 


time, he rightly considers that new forms in 
music do not necessarily imply formlessness, as 
some people appear to imagine, and in his larger 
orchestral compositions he has ever displayed a 
tendency to avoid recognised models. His four 
symphonic poems illustrate the dual nature of his 
talent as much as any of his productions. If in 
these we miss the powerful grandeur of Liszt, we 
find in its stead a clearer and more compact 
method of expression. 

These four works constitute one of the most 
abiding titles to the composer's fame. They also 
offer an opportunity of discussing a question over 
which there has been much controversy — viz., 
the position occupied by so-called "programme 
music " in contradistinction to " absolute music." 
The partisans of musical reaction, who are ever 
doing their utmost to stifle any attempt at 
emancipation from routine, and place every 
obstacle in the way of true progress, have 
often directed their sneers against this particular 
form of art. It is diflicult to understand the 
reason that actuates them when they try all 



they can to shut the doors upon the efforts of 
musicians whose only desire is to serve the 
cause of true art to the best of their ability. 
These dogmatic pedants would lead one to 
believe that ^'programme music" is the product 
of our degenerate age, invented by musicians 
barren of inspiration, eagerly clutching at any- 
thing enabling them to earn even a fictitious 

In reality, "programme music," in some 
form or other, has existed for many genera- 

Kiihnau, the precursor of Bach, has left a 
sonata intended to describe the fight between 
David and Goliath. Bach himself has not dis- 
dained the " form " in question. His capriccio 
on the departure of a friend, with its differently 
labelled parts, comes distinctly under the above 

It is as well though, in dealing with this 

subject, to draw a distinction between purely 

imitative and descriptive music. Whereas the 

former exemplifies a puerile, and necessarily 



inferior, form of art, the latter is susceptible of 
serving the noblest ends. 

It stands to reason that a musical imitation 
of physical sounds must necessarily fall short of 
the reality. 

A single clap of thunder will produce more 
effect than all the symphonic thunderstorms 
that have ever been composed, with all due 
deference to Beethoven and Rossini. Haydn 
has attempted to imitate all manner of sounds 
in the " Creation," from the bounding of a deer 
to the falling of snow ! These things fail to do 
more than provoke a smile. Music should act 
by suggestion rather than actual imitation. At 
the same time, a composer should not be denied 
the use of any device calculated to aid his 
inspiration, or to enable him to enlarge the 
domain of art by the employment of new or 
little used formulas. 

Beethoven and Mendelssohn have both given 

the sanction of their names to " programme " 

music, and the example shown by the composers 

of the "Pastoral " symphony and the "Hebrides" 



overture ought to be sufficient to silence the 
objections of the partisans quand mane of 
" absolute " music. 

In an admirable article upon the "Symphonic 
Poems " of Liszt, Saint-Saens has dealt fully and 
conclusively with the matter, and I cannot do 
better than reproduce the French master's own 
words, which have the advantage also of drawing 
attention to the great and still imperfectly recog- 
nised merits of Liszt as a composer. After 
laying stress upon the fact that Liszt had dared 
to break with the traditions regulating the 
symphonic form, and had by this shown a 
greater amount of boldness than Weber, 
Mendelssohn, Schubert, or Schumann, he 
proceeds to discuss the principle of " pro- 
gramme music " in the following terms : 

" To many people, ' programme music ' is a 
necessarily inferior genre. A quantity of things 
have been written upon this subject that I 
find it impossible to understand. Is the 
music in itself good or bad } Everything Hes 
there. Whether it be or not accompanied by 


a programme, it will be neither better nor worse. 
It is exactly as in painting, when the subject of 
a picture, which is everything for the vulgar, is 
nothing or is but little for the amateur. There 
is yet more : the reproach made against music 
of expressing nothing of itself, without the help 
of words, applies equally to paintings. A picture 
will never represent Adam and Eve to a spectator 
who does not know the Bible ; it will only 
represent a naked man and woman in a garden. 
And yet the spectator, or listener, will lend 
themselves easily to this deception, which 
consists in adding to the pleasure of the eyes 
or ears the interest or emotion of a subject. 
There is no reason to refuse them this pleasure, 
neither is there any compelling one to grant it. 
The liberty in the matter is complete; the 
artists profit by it, and they are right. What is 
undeniable is that the taste of the public at the 
present epoch tends towards the picture with 
a distinct subject and towards music with a 
programme, and that the taste of the public, at 
least in France, has drawn artists in this direction. 


* Programme music ' is, for the artist, only a 
pretext to explore new tracks, and new effects 
require new means." 

Saint-Saens has put his theory into practice 
with considerable success in the four symphonic 
poems entitled " Le Rouet d'Omphale," " Danse 
Macabre," " Phaeton," and "Lajeunesse d'Her- 
cule." Fundamentally different the one from 
the other, each of these compositions comes 
under the category of descriptive music, and is 
intended to illustrate a special subject. In the 
" Rouet d'Omphale," the composer has employed 
the well-known classic tale of Hercules at the 
feet of Omphale as a pretext for illustrating the 
triumph of weakness over strength. 

No words can express the art with which the 
composer has developed his themes, or give an 
idea of the delicacy of an instrumentation which, 
gossamer-like, seems to float in an atmosphere 
of melody. 

Perhaps the most characteristic of the four 
symphonic poems is the well-known " Danse 
Macabre." This work is suggested by a poem 

of Henri Cazalis, the first verse of which runs 
thus : 

"• Zig et zig et zag, la mort en cadence 
Frappant une tomhe avec son talon 
La mort a mimdt joue un air de danse 
Zig et zig et zag, sur son violon." 

The hour of midnight is heard to strike, and 
Death is supposed to perform a weird and ghastly 
dance, which grows wilder and wilder, until the 
cock having crowed, the excitement gradually 
subsides, and quiet reigns once more. 

The way in which Saint-Saens has succeeded 
in musically depicting the above story is in- 
tensely original and masterly. The general 
plan of the piece is perfectly clear and logically 
worked out. The two themes upon which it is 
constructed are admirably adapted for the pur- 
pose, and susceptible of being employed together 
with striking effect. There is a certain passage 
which produces the uncanny impression of the 
wailing of an unhealthy night wind through the 
trees of a churchyard. In order to give an imi- 
tation of the rattUng of bones, Saint-Saens has 


made use of the xylophone. A curious detail 
to be noted is the introduction, in a species of 
burlesque manner, of the "Dies Irae," transposed 
into the major and converted into a waltz, to 
which the skeletons are supposed to dance. 
Strikingly original and ingenious is the effect 
of the "solo" violin, with its string tuned to 
E|^, producing a diminished fifth on the open 
strings A and Et>, which, being reiterated several 
times, conveys a peculiar sensation of weird- 
ness. The " Dance Macabre " has contributed 
largely to spread its author's reputation all over 
Europe. It is undoubtedly one of his most 
popular works. " Phaeton," op. 39, and " La 
Jeunesse d'Hercule," op. 50, although less well 
known, are not the less remarkable. The first 
of these deals with the well-known story of 
Phaeton, who has obtained permission to drive 
the chariot of his father, the Sun, through the 
skies. His unskilled hands are powerless to re- 
tain the steeds. The entire universe is about to 
perish through the too close proximity of the 
flaming chariot, when Jupiter strikes the impru- 
129 I 


dent Phaeton with his thunderbolts. Upon this 
legend Saint-Saens has constructed a symphonic 
piece of great descriptive power. The music 
may indeed be said to tell its own story. A 
prelude of a few bars describes Phaeton gathering 
up his reins. He starts, and, presumably, after a 
preliminary canter, induces the horses to proceed 
quietly. Suddenly, however, they break away. 
Vainly does he use all his endeavours to stop 
them in their frantic course. The catastrophe 
is nearing, when a formidable crash puts an end 
to Phaeton and his misplaced ambition. 

The instrumentation of " Phaeton " is in 
itself worth a detailed notice, and is a perfect 
marvel of ingenuity. 

" La Jeunesse d'Hercule " is the most elabo- 
rate of the four symphonic poems^ and is, per- 
haps, the least well-known. It attempts to 
describe the legend of Hercules, who at the out- 
set of life saw two roads open to him, that of 
pleasure and that of duty. The hero does not 
allow himself to be swayed by the seductions of 
nymphs or bacchantae, but resolutely follows 


the path of struggles and of combats, at the end 
of which he is to receive the recompense of 

In treating this subject Saint-Saens has given 
full rein to his imagination, and has shown a 
complete independence of spirit in the matter of 
construction. The score of this poetical and 
original composition will fully repay any amount 
of study that may be devoted to it. It is, of 
course, impossible to attempt an analysis of this 
interesting work in these pages. I would, how- 
ever, draw the attention of musicians to the 
wonderfully ingenious manner in which the 
climax is reached, producing an accumulative 
effect of concentrated force bursting through its 
bonds, evidently descriptive of the final triumph 
of Hercules. 

A symbolic meaning is attached to all these 
symphonic poems, with the possible exception 
of the " Danse Macabre," and although they are 
each professedly intended to describe an actual 
story, this is only used as a means of suggesting 
the abstract idea that underlies it. 


Saint-Saens has published four pianoforte 
concertos, the second and fourth of which are 
the best known. Some years since he told me 
that he contemplated writing a fifth, but for some 
reason best known to himself he did not put his 
project into execution. The second and fourth 
concertos are two of the most striking examples 
of the kind that have proceeded from the pen of 
a modern composer. ^Yhy the third should be 
so persistently neglected is more than I profess 
to understand, except for the reason that pianists 
. are like the traditional viojitons de Fanurge^ and 
are, as a race singularly destitute of initiative, 
preferring to follow on the beaten track sooner 
than give themselves more trouble than necessary. 

The form adopted by Saint-Saens in his 
second concerto, op. 25, is sufficiently novel. 
Its first movement is labelled " Andante soste- 
nuto," and commences with a long introduction 
for the piano, somewhat in the style of Bach. 
The passionate melody which succeeds to this, 
and may be considered as the principal theme 
of the movement, is, however, quite modern in 


character The delightful " Scherzo " and in- 
spiriting " Finale," are slightly suggestive of both 
Weber and Mendelssohn, whilst bearing the 
distinctive mark of their composer's personality. 
In his fourth concerto in C minor, op. 44, Saint- 
Saens has departed still further from the usual 
model. This work is divided into two sections, 
which include five changes in the "tempo." A 
noticeable feature in the concerto is the reintro- 
duction in the last movement of themes pre- 
viously heard in the first, thus producing a sense 
of homogeneity. 

The fourth concerto is the most ambitious 
work of the kind that Saint-Saens has written. 
It is also the best. A few years since, the com- 
poser attempted the experiment of performing 
all four works in succession at a concert given 
at the St. James's Hall. 

Saint-Saens did not make his debut as an 
operatic composer until he had reached the age 
of thirty-seven, and then only with a one-act 
opera-comique, entided " La Princesse Jeaune," 
produced at the Opera Comique Theatre in 


1872. This curious little work, the scene of 
which is laid in China, was not well received 
and speedily disappeared from the bills. The 
overture is delightfully quaint, and is occasionally 
heard at concerts. Now that one-act works are 
coming into vogue, this delicate little score 
might well be reproduced. 

The reputation acquired by Saint-Saens as a 
symphonist, and what is known in France as 
" un musicien savant," had been sufficient to 
cause any pretension on his part to aspire to the 
fame of a dramatic composer to be looked upon 
with suspicion. Added to this, he had the 
reputation of harbouring feelings of admiration 
for Wagner, which at that time was quite 
enough to prevent a manager from producing 
his vrorks. 

An opera entitled " Le Timbre d' Argent," 
not to be confounded with Vasseur's operetta 
" La Timbale d' Argent," was written before the 
war of 1870, and was destined for the Opera 
Comique Theatre. It was, however, not brought 
out until 1877, when it was played at the 


Theatre Lyrique under the direction of Mons. 
A. Vizentini. 

The influence of Gounod is very apparent in 
this work, and Bizet even found therein certain 
affinities with Auber which I confess myself 
unable to discover. One thing certain is, that 
this opera has but little in common with Wagner. 
" ].e Timbre d' Argent " reveals the hand of the 
practised musician, but is very unequal as a 
whole, and does not occupy an important place 
in the composer's dramatic outfit. A point to 
note in this opera is the superiority of the 
orchestral treatment and general workmanship 
over the melodies, many of which border upon 
the commonplace. 

The same year that " Le Timbre d' Argent " 
was produced in Paris, the Grand Ducal 
Theatre of Weimar announced the first perform- 
ance of a new opera by Saint-Saens, entitled 
*' Samson et Dalila." 

As many consider this the composer's finest 
dramatic work, and as it is only compara- 
tively recently that its beauties have come 


to be generally recognised, and that it has 
been incorporated into the repertoire of the 
Paris Opera, a short account of the genesis of 
this remarkable composition may not be out of 
place, the more so as it will accentuate the diffi- 
culties that appear to beset composers and stand 
in the way of works of the highest merit. 

" Samson et Dalila " was begun by Saint-Saens 
before the year of the Franco-German war. 

The second act was tried over in private, 
when the part of Samson was sung by the ill- 
fated painter, Henri Regnault, who was destined 
to be killed a year later, during the war. The 
" Marche Heroique," composed by Saint-Saens, 
is dedicated to the memory of the unfortunate 

The score of "Samson et DaHla" was ter- 
minated towards 1872, and a performance of the 
second act was given by Madame Viardot at 
her country-house at Croissy two years later. 
On this occasion the gifted hostess undertook 
the part of Dalila, and all who can remember 
her incomparable method of singing will agree 


that she must have been an admirable interpre- 
tress of the passionate accents allotted by Saint- 
Saens to the heroine of his opera. 

The influence of this admirable artist upon 
French music has been very great. In a volume 
of verses recently published Saint-Saens thus 
apostrophises her : 

" Glolre de la Mtisique et de la Tragedie ; 
Muse qu'un lauriev d'ov couvonna tant de fois, 
Oscvai-je parler de vous, lovsquc ma voix 
An langage des vers folkment s'etudie ? 

Les poetes par Apollon vainqueuv 

Out seuls assez de fleurs pour en faire une gerhe 

Digne de ce genie eclatant et superbe 

Qui pour rC'ternite vous a faiie leur soeur. 

Du culte du beau chant pretresse veneree, 
Ne laissez pas crouler son autel precieux, 
Vous qui Vavez regu comme un depot des cieux, 
Vous qui du souvenir etes la pre/era ! 

Ah! comment outlier r implacable Fides 
De I'amour maternel endurant le supplice, 
Orphce en pleurs qui pour revoir son Eurydice 
Enhardi par Eros pauire dans I'Hades I 



Grande comme la Lyre et vihrante comme elle, 
Vous avez eu dans VArt un eclat nonpareil. 
Vision trop rapide, hclas ! que mil soleil 
Dans Vavenir jamais ne nous rendra plus belle!'' 

In 1875 the first act of " Samson et Dalila" 
was given in its entirety in Paris at one of 
Mons. Colonne's concerts. 

It was, however, not until the second of 
December 1877 that "Samson et Dalila" was 
brought out upon the stage. Liszt, ever anxious 
to further the progress of art, had been struck 
by the merits of the work, and undertook to 
have it mounted at Weimar, where some twenty- 
five years earlier he had been instrumental in 
producing " Lohengrin " for the first time on 
any stage. 

Musicians of the calibre of Liszt are indeed 
rare, and it is right to tender a passing tribute 
to the absolute disinterestedness of this great 
man, who never lost an opportunity of helping a 
brother artist. Having been brought out on 
German soil for the first time, a fact which the 
composer should remember when indulging in 


those patriotic ebullitions that of late years have 
so frequently appeared from his pen, " Samson 
et Dalila" was played at Hamburg in 1883 with 
Frau Sucher in the principal part. 

It was not until 1890 that the opera was 
given in France, Rouen being the first town in 
which it was played. During that year it was 
produced in Paris at the Eden Theatre under 
the same manager. On this occasion the prin- 
cipal parts were interpreted by Mme. Rosin e 
Bloch and Mons. Talazac, both of whom have 
recently died. 

Lyons, Marseilles, and Aix-les-Bains followed 
in 1891, and the next year "Samson et Dalila" 
was given at Toulouse, Bordeaux, Montpellier, 
Nantes, Nice, Florence, Monte Carlo, Geneva, 
and Dijon, receiving its final consecration by 
being produced on a grand scale at the Paris 
Opera House, having thus occupied a period of 
twenty years in reaching its goal. It has since 
then been played in other continental towns. 
London still remains, and upon this I should 
like to say a word. The fact of " Samson et 


Dalila " being taken from a Biblical source has 
been accepted as a reason for its non-production 
in our metropolis. That a work of the most 
serious import should thus be excluded from 
our stage when productions of the most futile 
description are passed without demur, is another 
example of the contradictions that exist in our 
Pharisaical country. 

Not so long ago an operetta was licensed in 
which ministers of religion were held up to 
ridicule, and jokes were freely made concerning 
matters that must by a great portion of the 
audience have been held sacred, and yet 
nothing was said. But should some manager 
think of producing an episode culled from the 
Old Testament, and treated in a strictly serious 
and even reverent manner, the British con- 
science, that article of home manufacture of 
which Englishmen are so proud, is at once up 
in arms. We cannot support too many music- 
halls or give too much encouragement to those 
bastard specimens of operatic music known as 
" original " (?) comic operas, but our feelings of 


propriety revolt against anything like the stage 
treatment of works founded upon Biblical 
subjects. Let us be consistent whilst we are 
about it. If it is wrong to introduce Samson, 
Dalila, the Queen of Sheba, Joseph, Moses, 
or other Biblical personages upon the stage, 
it is surely worse to sanction the perform- 
ance of operas or dramas in which scenes are 
introduced representing the interior of churches, 
or religious ceremonies of any description ! 
Worse than all is the performance of pieces 
calculated to throw ridicule upon ministers of 
religion. To see respectable audiences sitting 
complacently gazing at a popular actor personi- 
fying a clergyman dancing in a pas de quatre 
with his chapel in the background, and to think 
that some of these very individuals may pos- 
sibly be numbered amongst those who object to 
Sunday concerts, is indeed more than strange. 

In the meanwhile as this state of things 

exists, and the musical public is debarred from 

hearing a work like " Samson et Dalila " on the 

stage, it may be wondered that no one seems to 



have been struck with the idea of producing it 
in oratorio form in the concert-room. It is not 
creditable that England should remain the only 
nation where " Samson et Dalila " has not been 

The prejudice existing against the employ- 
ment of Biblical subjects for operatic purposes 
is unfortunate, as the fund of material is appar- 
ently exhaustless. The story of Samson and 
Dalila has furnished Saint-Saens with a plot 
such as he has since sought for in vain in the 
pages of English and French history. The less 
complicated the story, the better it is fitted for 
operatic treatment. Wagner has exposed his 
reasons at length concerning the superiority of a 
legendary over a historical subject. Saint-Saens 
is unfortunately not of this way of thinking. Of 
later years the bias of his mind has been rather 
tending towards historical subjects. 

* Since these lines were written, a solitary per- 
formance of " Samson et Dalila," in concert form, has 
taken place at Covent Garden Theatre during Mr. 
Farley Sinkins's season of Promenade Concerts, under 
somewhat untoward circumstances. 


" Samson et Dalila " may be considered not 
only as one of the master's best operas, perhaps 
even as the very best, but as one of the finest 
dramatic works produced by any French com- 
poser during the last five-and-twenty or thirty 

A work like this cannot be otherwise than the 
spontaneous outcome of a composer's feelings, 
untrammelled by outward considerations. The 
varied influences that are noticeable in the 
musical style of Saint-Saens, and to which I 
have already made allusion, are perhaps more 
marked in this work than in any of his other 
operas. In the first act the choruses sung by 
the captive Hebrews breathe the spirit of Bach 
and Handel, and are conceived rather in the 
oratorio style. As a strong contrast to these we 
have the dainty chorus of the priestesses of 
Dagon and their characteristic dance, the 
fascinating trio in which Dalila endeavours to 
cast her spell over Samson, and the lovely air, 
"Printemps qui commence," which terminates 
the act and which has been sung by every 


contralto. Samson's spirited appeal to arms 
must also be mentioned. The second act 
commences with Dalila's invocation to love, 
praying for aid in her design to ensnare Samson. 
The lengthy duet between the heroine and the 
high priest is eminently dramatic, and the 
following duet between her and Samson may be 
ranked amongst the finest love scenes ever 
written. It contains a beautiful phrase sung by 
the temptress when endeavouring to inveigle 
her victim, which is reproduced later on in an 
admirably suggestive manner by the orchestra, 
and reappears in the third act, transformed into 
a mocking theme, when Dalila is scoffing at her 
victim in chains and deprived of his sight. The 
third and last act contains a touching prayer for 
Samson, bewailing his lost sight, some admirable 
ballet music, in which the composer has made 
effective use of the Eastern scale, and a 
masterly scene depicting the revelries of the 
Philistines, culminating in the destruction of 
the temple by Samson. So ends this beauti- 
ful score, the merits of which are so trans- 


parent and yet have remained so long 

In " Samson et Dalila " Saint-Saens had made 
use of representative themes, and although he 
has done so in a sufificiently discreet fashion, 
avoiding anything approaching to Wagnerian 
polyphony, the fact deserves to be noted as 
affording, perhaps, the first instance in which 
the system has been rigorously followed by a 
French composer. There can be no doubt 
but that the device contributes to a great extent 
in securing that unity which is so much sought 
for nowadays in dramatic works. Another point 
to be noted is the suppression of detached 
numbers, the opera being divided into scenes 
that are logically developed. 

The instrumentation of " Samson et Dalila " 
is rich and varied, yet never unduly complicated. 
Saint-Saens knows how to distribute his effects 
with unerring certainty, and his work is a model 
of orchestral skill. The opera is scored for a 
very full orchestra, of which it may be interesting 
to give the composition. In addition to the 


Strings and usual wood wind, he employs a 
third flute, a cor anglais^ a bass clarinet, a 
double bassoon, four horns, two trumpets, two 
cornets, three trombones, a bass tuba, two 
ophicleides, two harps, three kettledrums, a 
grosse caisse^ cymbals, a triangle, a glockenspiel^ 
crotales^ castagnettes made of wood and iron, a 
tambour de basque^ and a tamtam. 

These constitute a powerful engine of sound, 
which is made subservient to the composer's 
will, and reproduces his thoughts with unim- 
peachable exactitude. 

" Samson et Dalila " perhaps remains the 
dramatic masterpiece of Saint-Saens. His other 
operas may be equally remarkable in point of 
style and more elaborate in the matter of detail, 
but they often lack that apparent spontaneity 
which constitutes not the least charm of the 
Biblical work, and, although containing much 
that is admirable, are perhaps less inspired. 
Saint-Saens could not write an uninteresting 
work if he chose, and musicians will find much 
to admire in his later operas. In " Samson et 


Dalila " he has succeeded in compelling the 
admiration of both musicians and the public 
at large, perhaps for the very reason that when 
he wrote it he did not attempt to please either, 
but was content to follow the bent of his 
inspiration without arriere pensee of any sort. 

"Etienne Marcel," the composer's next opera, 
produced at Lyons in 1879, t'^s not received the 
amount of attention due to its merits. The 
defects in this work arise from a certain want of 
unity, consequent upon the obvious desire of the 
composer to reconcile the conflicting elements 
of the old and the new schools. Putting such 
considerations aside, there can be no doubt as 
to the general effectiveness of the music. The 
subject deals with a stirring episode of French 
history. If in treating it the composer has not 
discarded the older forms associated with the 
" grand opera " style, he has imparted a modern 
colouring to his score which goes far to redeem 
any shortcomings in this respect. He has been 
particularly happy in his treatment of the scenes 
of popular life that abound in this opera. 


There is a freshness and an irresistible entram 
in the ballet music, which is deliciously scored 
and abounds in charming details. The presence 
of a waltz in an opera, the action of which is 
laid in the fourteenth century, may cause some 
surprise, but it does not do to be over-particular 
in such matters, and much may be forgiven 
when the result is so pleasing. 

A few years ago it was quite on the cards 
that "Etienne Marcel" should be performed at 
Covent Garden, with Mme. Patti in the principal 
character. The grtdit prima donna had taken a 
strong fancy to the music, and expressed a desire 
to sing it. Unfortunately circumstances occurred 
which induced the diva to change her mind, 
and to display her vocalisation in an opera of 
little musical worth, which has long since dis- 
appeared from the repertoire. 

If would be a thousand pities if an opera 
containing so much that is excellent should 
be allowed to suffer perpetual neglect, and it 
may be hoped that some day we may be afforded 
the chance of hearing it in England. 


The great moment In the dramatic career of 
Saint-Saens was now at hand — that psycho- 
logical moment so long desired and eagerly 
anticipated by every French aspirant to operatic 
fame. The doors of the Opera, that sanctum 
sanctoni7n, was at length to be opened to him. 
After the comparative failure of such works as 
Gounod's "Tribut de Zamora," and Ambroise 
Thomas' " Frangoise de Rimini," the prestige 
of the French school wanted looking after, and 
some fresh blood was required to renew it. 
That a composer such as Saint-Saens should 
be obliged to go to Weimar and Lyons in order 
to get played seemed an anomaly, and the 
author of " Samson et Dalila " was at last, and 
not too soon, commissioned to write a work for 
the leading operatic stage of Paris. 

Great expectations had been formed concern- 
ing the opera that so consummate a musician, 
and one holding such high artistic notions, would 
produce. It was held that a composer so well en- 
dowed would prove to be the one, par excelkfice^ 
destined to free the French operatic stage from 


the bondage of " routine," and be the standard- 
bearer of French progressive art. These antici- 
pations were destined to be only partly realised. 
Leaving French history for the nonce, Saint- 
Saens found in the life of our much-married 
monarch a subject congenial to his muse, and 
*' Henri VIII." was produced with success in 
March 1883. If this opera is ever to be per- 
formed in England certain alterations will have 
to be made, as the inclusion of a Scotch ballet 
danced at Richmond might tend to ridicule. 

It must be admitted that if the book of 
" Henri VIII." is in many senses disappointing, 
yet it is not devoid of merit, and contains 
several highly dramatic situations that have 
been well treated by the musician. The 
authors, Messrs. Detroyat and Silvestre, have 
not adhered entirely to Shakespeare. The 
action takes place at the time when Henry has 
begun to be struck with the charms of Anne 
Boleyn, who also has an admirer in Don Gomez, 
the Spanish ambassador. The divorce of the 
King from Katharine of Arragon is at hand, and 


the Pope's Legate having refused to sanction 
it, the King, amidst the acclamation of the 
people, proclaims the schism with the Roman 
Church. The last act is perhaps the best. 
Anne Boleyn is now Queen, and Katharine, 
who is dying, has in her possession a compro- 
mising letter from Anne to Don Gomez. Henry 
is devoured by jealousy, and comes, accompanied 
by Don Gomez, to endeavour to obtain posses- 
sion of this document. Anne has also come to 
see if she can regain the letter. This leads to the 
capital situation in the opera. Henry, in order 
to excite the jealous and revengeful feelings of 
Katharine, speaks in the tenderest tones to 
Anne, whose eyes are fixed upon the note that 
Katharine has in her hands. At length Katha- 
rine, having prayed for strength to resist the 
temptation, throws the letter in the fire, and 
falls down dead. 

There is no denying the dramatic force of this 

situation, which has been treated by Saint-Saens 

in a masterly manner. The splendid quartet 

which terminates the work, in which the different 



emotions of the four characters are depicted in 
accents as powerful as they are varied, may rank 
amongst his finest inspirations, and as one of 
the most stirring scenes in the entire range 
of modern opera. 

An interesting feature in " Henri VIII." is 
the partial employment of kit-uwtive?i. Saint- 
Saens, who at one time was looked upon 
as a disciple of Wagner, has taken pains to dis- 
pel this impression. And yet in the first work 
composed by him for the chief French operatic 
theatre, he set to work by making use of one of 
the Bayreuth master's favourite devices. He 
will probably urge that it is not so much Wagner 
himself that he has been combating, but the 
unreasoning enthusiasm of some of his thick- 
and-thin admirers. This may be so, but the 
fact remains, that Saint- Saens has laid himself 
open to misconception, which might easily have 
been avoided had he displayed a less militant 
tendency in his criticisms. At any rate, he 
has deliberately adopted the system of represen- 
tative themes in his " Henri VIU.," and if, 


whilst SO doing, he has not abandoned the 
old operatic set forms, the innovation is a suffi- 
ciently important one to note. It is this attempt 
to reconcile such antagonistic elements that is 
held by some as constituting a weak point in 
this remarkable work. " From the beginning," 
writes a well-known critic, " we see the two 
forms of the opera and the lyrical drama in 
juxtaposition, and thus all unity of style is at 
once broken." 

The opinions of Saint-Saens himself on the 
subject of dramatic music are interesting, as they 
explain the spirit of compromise that exists in 
all his works. "Henri VIII." was considered 
by some as foreshadowing a new departure in 
the composer's style. These were doomed to be 
disappointed, for the works that have succeeded 
it are not in any way more " advanced." Saint- 
Saens has taken the trouble to write and explain 
his views on the subject, and from these it is highly 
unlikely that he will now depart. In a letter 
written to the editor of the Carillon Theatral^ 
soon after the performance of his opera " Proser- 


pine," Saint-Saens expressed himself thus : " My 
theory of dramatic art is this : I beheve the 
drama is progressing towards a synthesis of 
different elements, song, declamation, and sym- 
phony blending in an equilibrium which leaves 
the composer free to avail himself of all the 
resources of art, while it affords the spectator 
the gratification of every legitimate desire. It 
is this equilibrium which I seek, and which 
others will one day find. Both heart and head 
impel me to pursue this aim, and to this I must 
adhere. It is for this reason that I am dis- 
owned, now by those Wagnerites who despise 
the melodic style and the art of singing, now by 
those reactionaries who lay the entire stress on 
those elements, and consider declamation and 
symphony as mere accessories." 

The above definition of the " musical drama " 
is rational enough, and I do not see what even 
the most uncompromising Wagnerite could find 
to object in it. As to the allusion to " those 
Wagnerites who despise the melodic style," it 
would be interesting to know precisely to whom 


the composer refers. If there exist a few 
fanatics who imagine that melody can be 
banished with impunity, they are in absolute 
disaccord with Wagner himself, who wrote that 
"the one and only form of music is melody; 
no music is conceivable without melody, and 
both are absolutely inseparable." Mons. 
Imbert, in an article upon Saint-Saens, has 
amusingly termed him " le Wagnerien sans le 

The truth of the matter is, that every com- 
poser nowadays is actuated by the same desire, 
namely, to make his music lit the subject he is 
illustrating as closely as possible. If the method 
adopted differs in any way, this must be ascribed 
to a variety of causes, the composer's tempera- 
ment, his education, his nationality, and others. 
As to the interpolation of ballets and sundry 
ho7-s (Tci'iivre introduced often apparently with- 
out rhyme or reason, that still find their way 
into operas, it must in justice to the composer 
be remembered that he has a number of con- 
ventionalities to fight against and prejudices to 


overcome. Every one has not got the prestige 
of a Wagner, and even he had to fight a fear- 
fully uphill battle, and only reaped the full fruits 
of his labours at the end of his career. 

The taste of the public is little by little 
coming round to the " lyrical drama " as distinct 
from the opera, and composers are but following 
the tendency of the age. The transformation 
of style that has led Verdi to rise from 
" Trovatore " to " Otello " is there to attest it. 

The next opera — or shall we say "lyrical 
drama " ? — composed by Saint-Saens was " Pro- 
serpine," brought out at the ill-fated Opera 
Comique in 1887, the same year during which 
the theatre was destined to be burned to the 
ground. Despite its title, this work has nothing 
in common with mythology. It is taken from 
an early work by the poet Vacquerie, published 
some fifty years ago. 

The action takes place in Italy during the 

sixteenth century. Proserpine, a courtesan, is 

in love with Sabatino, a young nobleman, who 

is engaged to be married to Angiola, the sister 



of his friend. After endeavouring vainly to 
entrap Angiola and her brother, assisted by 
Squarocca, a bandit, she seeks Sabatino, who is 
awaiting his bride. When Angiola enters, 
Proserpine hides behind some drapery. 
Maddened by jealousy at hearing the lovers 
interchange protestations of affection, she 
rushes forward and strikes Angiola with her 
stiletto. Sabatino then snatches the weapon 
from her hands and plunges it into her 

This story was considered somewhat melo- 
dramatic in Paris, and the denouement has since 
been somewhat modified. A few alterations 
have been made in the score, and in its new 
form " Proserpine " will surely be performed 
sooner or later. There are some delightful 
numbers in this opera, which throughout bears 
the impress of the master's hand. I will 
especially draw attention to the closing scene of 
the second act, which is a perfect gem of 
delicate fancy and exquisite workmanship. The 
scene represents the interior of a convent, and a 


number of mendicants enter to receive alms. 
Their voices are accompanied by a melodic 
figure which is repeated in various guises until 
the fall of the curtain, without ever sounding 
monotonous in any degree, through the con- 
summate art and skilful manipulation with 
which it is handled. 

With his next opera Saint-Saens returned to 
the Grand Opera, where " Ascanio " was pro- 
duced in 1890. Benvenuto Cellini is the lead- 
ing character in this work, but the composer 
discarded the great sculptor's name as his title, 
probably out of deference to the memory of 
Berlioz, whose first dramatic attempt bore that 
name. These scruples did not trouble Mons. 
Diaz, who curiously enough brought out an 
opera bearing that title during the same year at 
the Opera Comique, where it met with no 
success. There has always been something of 
the mystifier in Saint-Saens. He likes to go 
his own way, regardless of what may be expected 
of him or whether he satisfies the partisans of 
any particular style of music. Mons. Camille 


Bellaigue remarks that he was not much 
astonished that this work should have produced 
a feeling of surprise and even of disappointment. 
" L'oeuvre," he says, "que peut-etre on attendait 
puissante et grandiose, n'est que touchante par- 
fois, toujours intime et presque familiere." 

This definition gives so good an idea of the 
general character of the opera that I do not 
hesitate to reproduce it here. The plot of 
" Ascanio " is rather complicated for a " lyrical 
drama," the numberless episodes that occur 
detracting from the continuity of the work. 
Saint-Saens appears to have composed the 
music in a remarkably short space of time, less 
than a year. Those who take the trouble to 
study this interesting score, which has been 
aptly termed a musical mosaic, will appreciate 
the prodigious amount of labour involved. 
The composer has again employed representative 
themes, very much after the system he had 
previously adopted in his "Henri VIII." The 
score of " Ascanio " is a veritable monument of 
ingenuity, and if it does not produce an 


altogether satisfactory impression, the fault may 
be ascribed rather to the book than to the 

A curious incident in connection with the 
first performance of this opera was that the 
composer, doubtless anxious to seek perfect 
rest after his prolonged labours, and desirous of 
avoiding the fatigues consequent upon attend- 
ing its production, took himself away and 
carefully omitted to leave his address behind. 
Weeks elapsed, and no news of him was 
forthcoming. Fanciful stories were concocted 
of how he had met with foul play. Telegrams 
were dispatched all the world over, with the 
result that he was authoritatively declared to have 
been seen in at least a dozen different places 
several hundred miles away one from the other. 
Finally, he was discovered, quite by chance, 
under an assumed name in the Canary Islands. 
A visitor staying in the same hotel, hearing 
some one playing the piano in a manner the 
reverse of amateurish, and having that morning 
read about the mysterious disappearance in the 


French papers, had the curiosity to go down 
and verify the suspicions that had occurred to 
him. He had no difficulty in identifying the 
composer, and in a very short time the news 
had spread all over the place. Saint-Saens 
then had to pay the penalty of being a 
celebrity. He wrote thus to Mons. Louis 
Gallet, his friend and collaborator : " For the 
last three days, since I have been recognised, I 
lead an insupportable life. I do not have a 
moment to myself. I am scribbling you these 
lines whilst talking. If there is no common sense 
in what I say, do not be surprised." 

The last dramatic work produced by Saint- 
Saens is " Phryne," a two-act comic opera, given 
at the Opera Comique in the month of May of 
the present year (1893). 

It might have been hoped that a composer 
such as Saint-Saens would have thought fit to 
devote his great gifts to the elaboration of a 
" musical comedy " that might have ranked side 
by side with Wagner's " Meistersinger " and 
Verdi's" " Falstaff." Not one of his countrymen 
161 L 


is better qualified than he is for such a task. 
Perhaps he may undertake it later on. At any 
rate, he has not attempted anything of the kind 
in "Phryne," which is modelled upon an old 
pattern, includes spoken dialogue, and consists 
of a number of detached pieces, following the 
conventional practice associated with the Opera 

In writing this graceful score Saint-Saens has 
evidently aimed at simplicity. There are some 
charming numbers of a melodious nature in this 
little work, which also displays the composer's 
capacity of dealing with humorous situations to 
great advantage. Perhaps the best portion is 
the " Invocation to Venus," in which the means 
employed are of the simplest, whilst the results 
are eminently poetical and effective. " Phryne " 
has proved very successful in Paris. The title 
part has been interpreted by Miss Sybil San- 
derson, whom the composer has gratified with a 
liberal allowance of roulades and other vocal 

It now remains for me to allude to some 


of the other compositions of Saint-Saens in 
various Hnes — and what Hne has he not 
attempted? That one who has achieved so 
great a reputation as an organist should also 
have distinguished himself as a composer of 
sacred music stands to reason. One of his 
most representative works of this kind is his 
oratorio " Le Deluge," which exhibits the pecu- 
liar characteristics of his style to an almost 
equal degree as "Samson et Dalila." Every 
one knows, or ought to know, the beautiful 
Prelude with the lovely violin solo, the com- 
mencement of which is suggestive of Bach, 
whilst the end is reminiscent of Gounod. I 
must also mention his noble " Requiem " and 
fine setting of the psalm " CoeH enarrant." 
The " Oratorio de Noel " is an early work, but 
contains several charming pages. 

To analyse in detail all the compositions of 
this indefatigable worker would take up a 
volume in itself. I must therefore be content 
with the bare mention of songs full of originality, 
such as the " Melodies Persanes," pianoforte 


music like the " Menuet et Valse," " Six etudes," 
and the three Mazourkas ; violin music such as 
the three Concertos, the " Introduction et Rondo 
Capriccioso " so often played by Senor Sarasate, 
the Sonata, op. 75, for the same instrument ; and 
violoncello music such as the characteristic 
" Suite," the admirable Sonata, op. 32, and the 
Concerto, which is a favourite with all 'cellists. 
Neither must I omit the masterly variations for 
two pianos on a theme of Beethoven, or the 
splendid pianoforte transcriptions from Bach. 
Several of these works may almost be said to 
rank as classics. Two important compositions 
remain to be noted, both of which were produced 
for the first time in England. The first of these 
is the picturesque cantata " La Lyre et la Harpe," 
composed for the Birmingham Festival of 1879 ; 
and the second is the Symphony in C Minor, 
first produced by the Philharmonic Society in 
1885. It seems strange indeed that a work so 
remarkable in every way as the last should not 
be given oftener. Saint-Saens has not here 
written a symphony upon the usual model, but 


has endeavoured to produce something entirely 
unconventional, whilst keeping within certain 
limits, that enabled him to claim the title of 
symphony for a work which, although possessing 
many of the characteristics of the genre, yet 
in the matter of form differs much from the 
compositions of recognised masters. If the 
influence of Beethoven is not absent, neither 
is that of Liszt, and there is as much if not more 
of the " symphonic poem " in a work, that is 
unique in its way, than of the symphony proper. 
A curious detail to note is that in this work 
the organ and piano are added to the usual 

Saint-Saens is a very quick worker. The 
rapidity with which he is able to conceive and 
transcribe a work of large proportions is all the 
more remarkable for the reason that his writing 
never exhibits the slightest sign of that careless- 
ness often engendered by undue haste. The 
following extract from Mons. Hugues Imbert's 
" Profils de Musiciens " will give an idea of this : 
*' With Saint-Saens the conception is rapid ; he 


writes without pause or hesitation {d'un seiiljet). 
Once the idea is chosen and defined, he imme- 
diately realises the development. He orches- 
trates with the greatest ease, whilst conversing, 
and almost without making any corrections. 
Scarcely does he find it necessary to have re- 
course to the piano in order to aid his inspira- 
tion. His opera ' Proserpine ' was composed 
at Chaville, without the aid of any instrument. 
He writes a score or a symphony as he would 
pen a letter or an article, or as he would solve a 
problem. A number of instances are cited con- 
cerning his prodigious facility of creation ; we 
will only recall the following : A few years ago 
he had promised to write an operette reviie 
for the Cercle Volney, of which he is a member. 
A few days before the performance nothing had 
as yet arrived. Upon inquiry from Saint-Saens 
himself it was discovered that he had totally 
forgotten his promise. ' But,' said he, ' the evil 
can be repaired ; ' and in the space of two hours 
he wrote ofi" twenty-one pages of full score." 
Some critics have found the music of Saint- 


Saens devoid of feeling, cold and passionless. 
How it is possible to come to this conclusion 
after hearing pages such as the famous love 
duet in " Samson et Dalila," or the quartet in 
" Henri VHL," it is difficult to understand. 

And yet Mons. Arthur Pougin, the well-known 
critic, has not scrupled to pass the following 
judgment on Saint-Saens in his article upon the 
composer, included in the Supplement to Fetis's 
" Biographic des Musiciens " : "Le temperament 
musical de Mons. Saint-Saens est sec, nerveux, 
absolument depourvu de tendresse, de senti- 
ment et de passion." After this it again 
becomes evident that a great man is not 
necessarily a prophet in his own country. 
When he penned the above lines Mons. Arthur 
Pougin was presumably unacquainted with 
" Samson et Dalila." 

In the course of this incomplete sketch of 
one of the most remarkable artists of his time I 
have alluded to his polemics as a critic. A few 
years since, he collected some of his writings 
together, and published them in a volume 


entitled " Harmonie et Melodie." In this book 
will be found various criticisms, many of which 
are as just as they are well expressed, but it is to 
be regretted that the author should occasionally 
have thought fit to mix up so-called " patriotic 
ideas " with his musical opinions. 

For many years Saint-Saens used to be con- 
sidered one of the ardent champions of Wagner. 
The moment, though, that the Bayreuth master's 
music seemed to obtain a firm hold upon the 
French public, through the medium of the 
weekly concerts given by Messrs. Lamoureux 
and Colonne, the French composer's zeal 
appeared to cool down, and the enthusiast gave 
way to the critic. Any one is of course entitled 
to air his opinions, and no one more so than a 
composer of such eminence as Saint-Saens. 
The mistake was that he chose the wrong 
moment to publish his views, and thereby stirred 
up a controversy which would best have been 

In 1879 he recorded his impressions of the 


" Ring des Nibelungen '' in a series of remark- 
able articles that are reproduced in the volume 
above mentioned. His opinion of this colossal 
work was summed up in these words : " From 
the height of the last act of the ' Gotter- 
dammerung,' the entire work appears, in its 
almost supernatural immensity, like the chain 
of the Alps seen from the summit of Mont 

He terminates the preface of " Harmonic et 
Melodic " by these words : " I admire the works 
of Richard Wagner profoundly, in spite of their 
eccentricities {en depit de leur bizarrerie). They 
are superior and powerful, which suffices for me. 
But I have never belonged, I do not belong, 
and I never shall belong, to the Wagnerian 
religion ! " 

This being the case, I am unable to see why 
the composer of " Henri VHI." should have 
taken so much pains to qualify his opinions. 
He admires Wagner, and it certainly would be 
odd if a composer of his value did not ; 


but he is anxious to avoid being comprised 
amongst those fanatics, whose admiration of 
Wagner prevents their acknowledging the great- 
ness of any other composer. 

It may here be noted that when the pub- 
Hsher Flaxland acquired the French copyright 
of " Lohengrin," the translation was at the 
author's request submitted to Saint-Saens, who 
wrote, in the newspaper La France^ that when 
" Lohengrin " was about to be produced in 
Paris, he, at the desire of the publisher and 
M. Charles Nuitter the translator, revised the 
French version and refused to participate in the 
droits d'auteurs. 

Amongst his many gifts Saint-Saens possesses 
that of the poet, and has proved his capability 
of writing charming verses. I will quote the 
following satirical lines written by him after the 
production of Bizet's " Djamileh," the delightful 
little one-act work which has recently been 
revived with success on various operatic boards, 
the merits of which were totally unrecognised by 
the Parisians in 1872 : 



" ' Djamileh,' fille et jieur de V Orient sacre, 
D'line change guzla faisant vibrer la corde, 
Chante, en s'accompagnant siir Vinstniment nacre, 
U amour extravagant dont son dme dchorde. 

Le bourgeois ruminant dans sa stalle serve, 
Ventru, laid, a regret scparc de sa horde, 
Entr'onvre un ceil vitreux, mange vn bonbon sitcre. 
Puis se rendorf, croyant que Vorchestre s'accorde. 

Elle, dans les parfums de rose et de santal, 
Poursuit son rcve d'or, d'azur et de crystal, 
Dedaigneuse a jamais de la foule Jieheiee. 
Et ran voit, au travers des mauresques arceaux, 
Ses cheveux denoues tombant en noirs ruisseaux, 
S' eloigner la Houvi, perle, aux ponrceaux jetee." 

He has lately published a little volume of poems 
which he has entitled "Rimes Familieres," 
from which I have extracted the lines addressed 
to Mme. Viardot. 

There is a great fund of humour in Saint- 
Saens. This has shown itself in many of his 
works, and occasionally he has given full rein 
to his fanciful imagination by writing a bur- 
lesque set of pieces entitled " Le Carnaval 
des Animaux," and another time by composing 


a parody of Italian opera, which he called 
"Gabriella di Vergy." Is there not a vein of 
grim humour in the " Danse Macabre " ? 

It is related that he once took part in an 
amateur performance of Offenbach's " Belle 
Helene," and interpreted the character of 
Calchas ! A detail to note : the composer of 
" Samson et Dalila " is still known as " ce jeune 
maitre," although his birthday belongs to the 
year 1835. ^^ ^^ more than probable that he 
will keep this title to the end. 

Camille Saint-Saens has retained all his fresh- 
ness of inspiration, and there is no knowing 
into what paths his fancy may lead him. But 
whether he elects to add to the number of 
his symphonic poems, to produce some fresh 
example of chamber music, or to elaborate the 
score of a " lyrical drama," he may rest assured 
that his doings will be followed with deep 
attention on the part of all who take interest in 





In the year 1842 there lived near St. Etienne, 
in the department of the Loire, an ironmaster 
of the name of Massenet, an ex-superior officer 
of engineers, who had been twice married, and 
both of whose unions had been blessed in a 
manner apparently rare in France. In the year 
in question yet one more offspring was destined 
to be added to the already crowded quiverful. 
This child, who was named Jules, was the future 
composer of " Manon " and " Werther." It is 
needless to state that, alike to all great musicians, 
Massenet gave evidence of talent at an early age, 
to the extent that he was sent to the Conserva- 
toire, where he rapidly distinguished himself. 

His family, who at that time resided in Paris, 
were, however, obliged, on account of his father's 


health, to leave the capital. It appears that 
young Massenet, tormented by the desire to 
resume studies that had been so brilliantly 
begun, thereupon made up his mind to quit 
the paternal roof, which was then situated in 
the town of Chambery, in Savoy, and one day, 
without saying a word to any one, he undertook 
to walk all the way to Lyons. How he ever got 
there it is difficult to say, for he had apparently 
neglected to provide himself with ready cash, 
doubtless deeming this a superfluity and a 
needless encumbrance. Trifles such as these 
sit lightly on a mind of fourteen, and young 
Massenet succeeded somehow or other in 
reaching the great manufacturing centre, where 
he discovered the abode of a relative, and 
presented himself, tired and hungry, to his 
astonished gaze. Having explained the cause 
of his sudden appearance, the young truant 
was forthwith expedited back to his parents, 
who, seeing that it was useless to combat so 
decided a vocation, made up their minds to 
send him to Paris in order that he might 


continue his studies. Unfortunately, it is im- 
possible to live upon air, and during the time 
when he was mastering the principles of his art 
the young neophyte was obliged to look for some 
occupation that would help him to keep body 
and soul together. This he was fortunate 
enough to find at the Theatre Lyrique, where he 
obtained the privilege of presiding over the 
kettledrums at a salary of 65 francs a month. 
It was not precisely riches, but it sufficed to 
keep the wolf from the door. For six years did 
Massenet have the opportunity of venting the 
superfluity of his energies by striking the drums. 
In the meanwhile he was not idle, and the first 
prize for piano as well as the first prize for fugue 
were both successfully awarded to him. Finally, 
at the age of twenty-one he reached the goal of his 
ambition, obtained the " Grand Prix de Rome " 
through a cantata entitled " Rizzio," and de- 
parted for the Eternal City, where he remained 
for two years. 

Massenet has himself recorded his im- 
pressions of Rome in some interesting auto- 


biographical notes published recently in the 

" It was at Rome," he says, " that I began to 
live ; there it was that during my happy walks 
with my comrades, painters or sculptors, and 
in our talks under the Villa Borghese or under 
the pines of the Villa Pamphili, I felt my first 
stirrings of admiration for Nature and for Art. 
What charming hours we spent in wandering 
through the museums of Naples and Florence ! 
What tender, thoughtful emotions we felt in the 
dusky churches of Siena and Assisi ! How 
thoroughly forgotten was Paris with its rushing 
crowds ! Now I had ceased to be merely a 
musician ; now I was much more than a musi- 
cian. This ardour, this healthful fever still sus- 
tains me^ for we musicians, like poets, must be 
the interpreters of true emotions. To feel, to 
make others feel — therein lies the whole secret." 

It is natural that with recollections such as 

these Massenet should consider a sojourn in 

Rome to be fraught with great advantage to 

young musicians. He believes that a residence 



there " may give birth to poets and artists, and 
may awaken sentiments that otherwise might 
remain unknown to those in whom they lie 

It was at the close of the year 1865 that he 
left Rome, and shortly after, a one-act comic 
opera from his pen, entitled " La Grande Tante," 
was produced at the Opera Comique, according 
to the regulations, which prescribe that every 
winner of the "Prix de Rome" should have a 
one-act work played at this theatre. Massenet's 
hour had not yet arrived. His " Poeme d'Avril," 
one of his most delicate inspirations, had been 
refused by a publisher, and he found himself 
obliged to earn his livelihood by giving lessons. 

In 1869 he took part in the competition for 
the composition of an opera upon a libretto 
entitled " La Coupe du Roi de Thule," * but 
without success, the prize being awarded to 
Mons. Diazjt whose work was subsequently 

* Massenet has introduced some of the music of 
this work into " Le Roi de Lahore," 
t Diaz ; b. 1837. 

177 M 


brought out at the Opera without creating any 
great sensation. This shows the value from an 
artistic point of view of these competitions. 

The Franco-German war came to interrupt 
Massenet in his labours, and like a good patriot 
he served his country on the ramparts of 

After matters had settled down he was able to 
again set to work. His next operatic venture 
was " Don Cesar de Bazan," played at the Opera 
Comique in 1872, concerning which it is not 
necessary to say much. A piquant little 
entr'acte has survived, and is occasionally 
heard at concerts. A more important work 
was the music he composed to Leconte de 
Lisle's drama, " Les Erinnyes," which still ranks 
amongst his most remarkable productions. 

Massenet has been most successful in impart- 
ing a sort of antique colouring to his score. A 
selection of the music has found its way into the 
concert-room, and was heard at the Crystal 
Palace under the composer's direction some 
years ago. The best numbers are the beautiful 


invocation of Electra and the characteristic 

The turning-point in the composer's career 
was at hand. He had written a sort of oratorio 
entitled " Marie Magdeleine," and having shown 
the score to Mme. Viardot, this great artist, who 
had been instrumental in furthering Gounod's 
debut as an operatic composer, was much struck 
by its merit, and determined to have it produced 
and sing in it herself. " Marie Magdeleine " 
was accordingly performed at the Odeon in 1873, 
and created a great stir in musical circles. This 
delicate and refined score reveals many of the 
special characteristics well known to those who 
admire the composer's music. It is very different 
from what we understand in England as an 
oratorio. The sensuous vein of melody and 
the sickly sentimentality which Massenet so 
often mistakes for true feeling are noticeable 
in many of its pages. " Marie Magdeleine " 
was just the sort of work to please a French 
audience of twenty years ago, whose acquaintance 
with Berlioz and Wagner was limited, and whose 


ideal was bounded by Gounod. It was the 
Bible doctored up in a manner suitable to the 
taste of impressionable Parisian ladies — utterly 
inadequate for the theme, at the same time 
very charming and effective. These words apply 
equally to " Eve," a work of the same nature that 
was produced two years later with equal success. 
It is but right to say that Massenet has not 
employed the title of " oratorio " for either of 
the above works. " Marie Magdeleine " is 
styled a sacred drama, and " Eve " a mystere. 
Concerning the first of these Mons. Arthur 
Pougin informs us that Massenet had not 
intended to adopt " the broad, noble, and 
pompous style of the oratorio. Painter and 
poet, he had endeavoured in this new and long- 
thought-out work, to introduce reverie and 
description ; he further employed the accents 
of a veritably human passion, of a tenderness 
in some way terrestrial, which might have given 
rise to criticism had he let it be imagined that 
he intended to follow on the traces of Handel, 
Bach, or Mendelssohn." 


The feminine nature of Massenet's talent has 
often led him to choose frail members of the 
fair sex as heroines of his works, such as Mary 
Magdalen, Eve, Herodias, and Manon. He 
lacks depth of thought and strength to grapple 
successfully with Biblical subjects, and the 
absence of these is not atoned for by an arti- 
ficiality of expression, and the too frequent 
employment of affected mannerisms. At the 
same time, there is a distinct element of poetry 
noticeable in all his works, and a peculiar sensuous 
charm is prominent in most of his compositions- 
These qualities are not to be despised. To 
them are to be added a richly-coloured and 
varied instrumentation, and an always interesting 
and often original harmonic treatment. Masse- 
net's name was now well known to concert- 
goers, and was shortly to become so to that 
larger section of the community, the theatre- 
going public, through the production of his 
opera " Le Roi de Lahore." Previous to dis- 
cussing the value of this work it will be well to 
mention the orchestral suites composed by him 


at different times, some of which occupy a per- 
manent place in concert repertoires. Of these the 
most popular is entitled "Scenes Pittoresques," 
a set of four short movements,. simple in structure, 
melodious, and well scored. There is not much 
in them, but although the material is scanty 
the workmanship is extremely clever, and the 
general effect decidedly pleasing. The " Scenes 
Dramatiques," after Shakespeare, the "Scenes 
Hongroises," and the '' Scenes Alsaciennes " 
are interesting and replete with imagination and 

Perhaps the most remarkable of the composer's 
purely instrumental works is the overture to 
Racine's " Phedre," a composition full of passion 
and feeling, well worked out and admirably 
orchestrated, which is fully entitled to rank 
amongst the best modern concert overtures. 
It is to be regretted that the composer has not 
produced more works of the same kind. There 
is a virility of accent and an avoidance of spe- 
cific mannerisms that may often be sought for 
in vain in his other compositions. 


" Le Roi de Lahore^" produced at the Opera 
in 1877, obtained a great success, partly, 
perhaps, owing to the magnificence of the 
mounting, but also, it must be said, on ac- 
count of the intrinsic value of the music. 
A spectacular opera in the fullest sense of 
the word, '' Le Roi de Lahore '' was a work 
eminently suited to a theatre such as the Grand 
Opera, where the ballet, viise-en-schte, and other 
accessories rank on an equal footing with the 
music. It was produced on a grand scale, the 
ballet act, taking place in the Paradise of Indra, 
forming one of the most gorgeous spectacles 

This act is perhaps the best from a musical 
point of view. In it Massenet has given full 
rein to his fancy, and has composed dance 
music of a really superior kind, which he has 
enriched with a piquant and effective instru- 
mentation. " Le Roi de Lahore " remains 
perhaps the best work that Massenet has com- 
posed for this theatre. It is more spontaneous 
than either " Le Cid " or " Le Mage," and 


contains many portions of great excellence. 
Every one knows the suave cantiletia for 
baritone that Mons. Lassalle used to interpret 
in so incomparable a fashion. In his criticism 
of this work Mons. A. JuUien formulates the 
following opinion of Massenet and the present 
school of French composers : " They all know 
their work admirably, and treat the orchestra to 
perfection. They have more or less natural 
grace and tenderness, t>ut they often lack power 
and originality. They make up for the first of 
these by the employment of noisy effects, and 
for the other by a search after novelty that 
occasionally amounts to eccentricity. Neither 
have they got sufficiently settled ideas : they try 
to reconcile the elements of different schools ; 
they do not write any more roulades or points 
d'orgue, but they allow singers to spread out 
their fine voices on final cadences ; they under- 
stand the necessity of renovating and vivifying 
the opera, but they only dare to make timid 
attempts in this direction at long intervals, and 
return immediately to used-up formulas, to 


ensembles^ to choruses, and to the most com- 
monplace finales." 

There is a great deal of truth in these words ; 
at the same time it is difficult to foresee an 
epoch when the " lyrical drama " will have 
attained that state of perfection as to be no 
more susceptible of improvement. The pro- 
gress that has been effected in France during 
these last thirty years in the direction of a 
higher conception of the musical drama has 
been enormous. The ball has been set rolling 
by some of those composers who would perhaps 
now be anxious to arrest its course, but the 
impetus having been given, it has been kept 
going by the younger aspirants to operatic fame, 
and is not likely to stop. 

" Le Roi de Lahore " obtained a distinct suc- 
cess, which was repeated in a number of conti- 
nental cities, including our own metropolis. 

Massenet visited England in 18/8, and con- 
ducted a concert devoted to his own music at 
the Crystal Palace. The programme included 
extracts from " Le Roi de Lahore " and " Les 


Erinnyes." He also appeared at a concert 
given by Mme. Viard Louis at the St. James's 
Hall, on which occasion he directed the 
performance of his orchestral suite entitled 
" Scenes from Shakespeare." 

Massenet's reputation was now established 
upon a solid basis. On the death of F. Bazin 
he had succeeded him as one of the leading pro- 
fessors of the Conservatoire. He had also been 
elected a member of the Institute. His next 
work, a religious cantata entitled " La Vierge," 
produced at the Opera in 1880, was, however, 
coldly received. Massenet, who conducted the 
orchestra in person, was grievously disappointed 
at this, but set to work with renewed vigour 
at an opera entitled " Herodiade," which was 
brought out with great success at Brussels in 
1 88 1. This work has since been given in Paris, 
as well as in various continental towns, where 
it has been well received. The nature of the 
subject necessarily stands in the way of its being 
produced in London. Certain extracts, how- 
ever, have been heard in our concert-rooms. 


The score of " Herodiade " abounds in examples 
of that sensuous melody so characteristic of the 
composer. There is very little Biblical about 
it, and it is to be regretted that another and 
better subject was not hit upon than this 
parody of Holy Writ. Massenet's strains would 
probably have been equally appropriate, and 
the susceptibilities of those who look upon 
this sort of thing as a desecration of religion 
would have been respected. 

There is indeed a vast difference between 
taking a subject like " Samson et Dalila," 
against which none but the most strict could 
object, and turning St. John the Baptist into a 
commonplace operatic hero. If it were not for 
the libretto, " Herodiade " ought to be heard in 
London, as it counts amongst its author's best 
works, and, despite certain weaknesses, occupies 
an honourable place in the ranks of modern 

The following lines, written by Camille Saint- 
Saens after the first performance of " Hero- 
diade" at Brussels, will be read with interest. 


I will not spoil the charm of the original words 
by attempting to translate them ; " La qualite 
maitresse de la musique du jeune maitre est la 
fraicheur, qualite si rare que M. Massenet me 
parait etre le seul a la posseder. On dirait 
par moments qu'il n'en sent pas le prix, a le 
voir poursuivre, en apparence du moins, un 
ideal de force violente. N'est-ce done rien que 
le parfum de la rose, la voix du rossignol et I'aile 
du papillon? Bien des gens trouveront que la 
rose, le rossignol et le papillon ne sont pas fort 
a plaindre, et qu'ils n'ont que faire de lutter 
avec le tigre et le mancenillier.'' 

We now arrive at the work through which 
Massenet is best known in this country, one 
which perhaps displays the peculiar nature of 
his talent to the greatest advantage. " Manon," 
that very fascinating musical setting of the 
Abbe Prevost's romance, was first played at the 
Opera Comique in 1884. For twelve years no 
new opera by Massenet had been produced at 
this theatre, and he had since then conquered 
celebrity as a dramatic composer and as an 


orchestral writer. The famous novel of the 
Abbe Prevost had already previously been 
utilised for operatic purposes by Auber, and 
has since been used as an opera text by the 
Italian composer Puccini. It furnished Mas- 
senet with a subject particularly suited to his 

Apropos of Auber's setting, the following 
story is related : 

Auber did not enjoy the reputation of being 
a great reader. One day he received a visit 
from a friend, who found him at his writing- 
table. Upon inquiring what he was working at, 
Auber replied : " I am busy with the first act of 
my new opera." — " By whom is the book ? " — 
"By Scribe." — "Might I ask its title and 
subject ? " — " Manon Lescaut." — " Manon ! that 
splendid masterpiece?" — "The romance; do 
you mean a romance?" asked Auber. — "Yes, 
certainly." — "Mon Dieu ! I have never read that," 
said Auber. — " What ! you write an opera on 
the subject of Manon, and have not read the 
story ? " — " True ; I have not got it in my library, 


for I have just been looking for it." — "Well, 
borrow it from Scribe." — " But I don't think 
Scribe has read it either," said Auber, " he 
may have glanced at it to get the situations, 
but Scribe never wastes his time if he can 
help it." 

Massenet's opera contains an innovation which 
has a certain importance and deserves to be 
noted. It is well known that the old-fashioned 
opera comique comprised spoken dialogue. 
The tendency of late years has been to aban- 
don this illogical custom, and the ideas of most 
composers nowadays tend in this direction. 
Certain ingrained habits are hard to get rid of, 
and even now there are composers of eminence 
who either have not the courage or inclination 
to break with a custom so antagonistic to the 
principles of the lyrical drama. 

Massenet, a musician of compromise, ima- 
gined a method which he doubtless thought 
would give musical continuity to his work with- 
out departing absolutely from the customs of 
the theatre. This was to retain the spoken 


dialogue, but to accompany it with an orches- 
tral commentary in keeping with the words. A 
similar method has been employed with success 
in dramas for which incidental music has been 
written. It is not a course that can be 
recommended for operatic purposes, although 
the effect in " Manon " is not unpleasing. The 
analogy existing between the stories of " Manon " 
and " La Traviata," or rather " La Dame aux 
Camelias," is sufficiently striking. Several situ- 
ations are almost identical. In both cases we 
have a heroine for whom it is difficult to feel 
much sympathy, a weak young man, and a 
heavy father given to singing long-winded 
cantilenas. The subject is essentially French, 
or rather Parisian, and the music of Massenet 
fits it like a glove. The composer's manner- 
isms seem less out of place in the mouth of 
Manon than they do in that of Mary Magdalen. 
Massenet is essentially a colourist, and even as 
he had succeeded in imparting an Eastern 
cachet to his "Roi de Lahore," and giving a 
tinge of the antique to his music for " Les 


Erinnyes," so in " Manon " he has feHcitously 
caught the spirit of the last century. This 
delicately perfumed score is in many places 
suggestive of the boudoir of a petite maitresse. 
There are plenty of accents of genuine passion 
noticeable in the course of the work, such as 
those in the great duet between Manon and Des 
Grieux ; also in the fine monologue of the latter. 
It is in what might be termed operas de deini 
caractere that Massenet excels, and he would 
do well in future to confine himself to this 
and eschew works of larger calibre, such as 
"Le Cid" and " Le Mage," the two latest 
operas that he has produced upon the stage of 
the Grand Opera. 

" Manon " has been successful on the Con- 
tinent, but curiously enough, does not appear 
to have taken much in London, despite the 
superb interpretation of the hero by M. Van 
Dyck. An English version was produced by 
the Carl Rosa Company in 1885, and it has 
remained in the repertoire. 

The year after the production of " Manon " 


Massenet reappeared as the musical delineator 
of another French classic. This time he 
sought inspiration from Corneille, undeterred 
by the failure of Gounod over ^' Polyeucte." 

" Le Cid " is one of the great dramatic poet's 
finest works, and one with which I will not do 
my readers the injustice to suppose them un- 
acquainted. The music of this opera contains 
much that is excellent, but fails in many 
respects to do justice to the heroic subject. In 
his efforts to be powerful the composer is often 
merely noisy. The best portions are certain 
/iors d'ceiwre, such as the delightfully charac- 
teristic ballet music. " Le Cid " has apparently 
proved to the taste of the habitues of the Opera, 
and has been successfully performed on the 

A work which I should from many points of 
view be disposed to prefer is " Esclarmonde," 
produced at the Opera Comique in 1889, the 
year of the International Exhibition. In this 
opera Massenet has taken a step in advance as 
regards the musical form he has adopted. 
193 N 


" Esclarmonde " is constructed more according 
to the lines of the modern " lyrical drama," and 
the composer has made use of " representative 
themes " to a great extent. One of these indeed 
bears a certain affinity to a motive in the " Meis- 
tersinger." This apparent adherence to the 
principles of the Bayreuth master caused some 
waggishly disposed critic to allude to Massenet 
as " Mile. Wagner." " Esclarmonde " is really 
a remarkable opera, and should be given in 
London. The story, which is taken from an 
old romance of chivalry, is a species of fairy 
tale and has this peculiarity about it that, re- 
versing the ordinary order of things, it is the 
heroine who falls in love with the hero, who, it 
must be owned, does not seem inclined to repel 
her advances. The lady in question being 
gifted with magic powers, causes the object of 
her flame to be transported to an enchanted 
island, where she visits him every night without 
his being allowed to contemplate her features. 
The love duet between the two is one of the 
most passionate and voluptuous examples of 


amorous music that has been heard on the 
stage. A species of orchestral interlude, played 
whilst the lovers are gradually surrounded by 
the trees and boughs of the enchanted island, is 
remarkably expressive, impregnated as it is with 
a peculiar sensuousness of utterance and ex- 
uberance of passionate feeling. This perhaps 
is the finest page in an opera that must count 
as one of its author's best works. Mons. 
Adolphe JulHen, whom I have had occasion to 
quote more than once in the course of this 
volume, remarks that Massenet's great fault is 
that he alternately attempts every style and per- 
severes in none. Certain it is that " Le Cid " 
was a distinct falling off after " Manon," and 
that " Le Mage," produced at the Grand Opera 
in 1 89 1, was absolutely inferior to " Esclar- 
monde." It is of course impossible for any 
musician to command inspiration. Certain 
subjects have the power of appealing to a com- 
poser more than others. With Massenet, as I 
have previously remarked, these rather pertain 
to the genre iiitiine, 



" Le Mage " is a spectacular opera upon a 
large scale, the action of which takes place in 
the time of Zoroaster. 

It furnished grand opportunities for the 
scenic artists to display their skill, but was 
admittedly a disappointment from a musical 
pomt of view. The composer was destined to 
take his revanche with "Werther," performed 
for the first time in Vienna on the i6th of 
February 1892. The composition of this work 
dates already some years back. It was in 1885, 
the master relates himself, when he had just 
terminated "Le Cid," that Mons. Hartmann, 
his publisher, suggested to him the idea of set- 
ting Goethe's story to music. Pleased with the 
notion, Massenet entered into communication on 
the subject with Messrs. Milliet and Blau, the 
authors of the libretto. The book having been 
supplied, Massenet set to work in the spring of 
1885, and the opera was completed at the end 
of the winter of 1886. 

When he was asked for a new opera by the 
director of the Opera Comique, to be played 


during the International Exhibition of 1889, the 
composer preferred to let him have " Esclar- 
monde," deeming this to be more fitted for the 

Having had to go to Vienna to superintend 
the rehearsals of " Manon," a proposition was 
made to produce his "Werther" at the Imperial 
Opera House. 

Massenet, in the course of a conversation 
published in the Echo de Fan's, gives some 
interesting details concerning the administration 
of the two imperial theatres in Vienna. 

'' Hierarchically, and in the first rank, Prince 
Hohenlohe, the direct representative of His 
Majesty, dominates. After him come first a 
high official personage bearing the title of 
General Intendant, and then in the third place 
the director, Mons. Jahn. The artists, in- 
cluding the ballet-dancers, are looked upon as 
accomplishing a service of State. Each day 
official carriages take them to the rehearsals. 
These take place from ten o'clock to half-past 
twelve, in the most absolute huts clos. In the 


evening equally, during the performance, no 
one is admitted either behind the scenes or in 
the boxes, and this from the point of view of 
the strictest morality. They play, sing, and 
dance without any stranger being allowed to be 
present. The archdukes themselves are not 

Massenet also gives an account of the trying 
ordeal he underwent when playing through his 
score for the first time before the director and 
all the artists. He was admitted into an 
immense and luxuriously furnished room, 
capable of containing over 200 people. "All 
the artists," he relates, "were seated there, 
grouped in a charming but imposing e?iseml>k. 
At my entrance they all got up and bowed. 
The director approached me and said a few 
amiable and too flattering words of welcome. 
All this was assuming the intimidating aspect 
of an official reception. I felt much moved. 
With the exception of my two old interpreters, 
Mdlle. Renard and Vandyck, I knew no one. 
Meanwhile the director led me to the piano, on 


the desk of which my yet unpubHshed score was 
placed, open at the first page. I sat down on 
the stool and was about to strike the first 

chord At this moment I must tell 

you an intense feeling of emotion came over 

me My heart was beating as if it would 

burst In one second, with a really painful 

intensity, I felt the vivid notion of the artistic 

responsibility which I was incurring 

What a terrible game I was about to play 

This score of 'Werther' was six years old. 

.... I scarcely had it in my memory 

How many works by me had not been played 

since I was finding myself, alone, far 

from my country, representing by the force of 

circumstances French musical art On 

the other hand, I had full conscience of the 
undeserved honour that was being conferred on 

me Was I not in Vienna, the guest of 

the Emperor, invited at the expense of the State, 
and remembering that alone two masters before 
me — both above criticism — Verdi and Wagner, 
had been the objects of such a high and such a 


precious distinction ? .... All these thoughts 
suddenly came into my brain ; tears rose to my 
eyes, and stupidly, like a weak woman, I began 
to weep. Then what kindness and delicate 
attention was shown all around me. ' Courage, 
courage,' was said to me from all sides. I made 
an immense effort, and still trembling with 
emotion I played through the entire score. 
This was in Vienna the first hearing of 

In Goethe's sadly pathetic story, Massenet 
has found a subject eminently suited to the 
peculiar nature of his talent. The idyllic charm 
of the sad tale has inspired him to write pages 
full of poetry and refinement. 

" Werther " was a distinct success in Vienna, 
and this success was repeated when the opera 
was produced in Paris at the Op^ra Comique. 
Massenet has seemingly been desirous in this 
work of writing a "lyrical drama" rather than 
an ordinary opera. He has kept his music well 
within the bounds of a subject so simple yet so 
interesting and so human. We do not find set 


duets, choruses, or ensembles in this deHcate and 
artistic score, and we need not regret their 

Long before Massenet's time, "Werther" had 
been set to music by Pugnani, musical director 
to the King of Sardinia. It was played at the 
Burg Theatre in Vienna in 1796. Pugnani's 
work was described as a symphony, which the 
composer sought to make as realistic as 
possible. On one occasion it was performed at 
Turin before a party of invited guests. Pugnani 
conducted in his shirt sleeves. At the moment 
when Wert her dies, Pugnani pulled a pistol out 
of his pocket and fired it. 

Blangini also wrote a cantata upon the same 
subject, which he entitled " Werther's Swan Song, 
half an hour before his death." At that time 
Werther's Lotte (Frau von Kestner) was still 
living in Hanover, and she journeyed to Cassel 
on purpose to hear Blangini's work. 

A curious thing happened when Massenet's 
"Werther" was given at Weimar in 1892. 
Giessen, the Weimar tenor, was deputed to sing 


the title role. His real name happens to be 
Buft', and he is a grand-nephew of Lotte, whose 
name was also Buff. When the Weimar per- 
formance took place it was therefore discovered 
that Giessen had to make love to his own great- 
aunt. In the German version of the opera 
Goethe's text is faithfully followed. Both Lotte 
and Werther are drawn from life. 

A few days after the first performance of 
" Werther " at Vienna a ballet, entitled " Le 
Carillon," by the same composer, to a 
scenario furnished by M. Van Dyck, was 
successfully produced upon the same boards. 
Massenet has another opera in readiness, which 
has not yet been been presented to the public — 
" Thais," a lyrical drama in three acts, words by 
Louis Gallet. 

The composer of "Werther" is an indefati- 
gable worker, and being in the full force or his 
maturity, may yet be counted upon to further 
enrich the operatic repertoire. Concerning his 
powers of work the following story is related : 
The director of one of the French operas, in 


speaking with the composer, said, " My dear 
Master, give me the secret of your abnormal 
creative abiHty. Every day you listen to a 
crowd of singers, you attend every rehearsal, and, 
besides, you are professor at the Conservatoire. 
When do you find time to work ? " " When 
you are asleep," replied Massenet, quickly. It is 
true that Massenet rises every day at five, and 
works incessantly until midday. 

In the Supplement to the " Biographic des 
Musiciens" of Fetis, edited by M. Arthur 
Pougin, published in 1880, mention is made of 
two "lyrical dramas," entitled "Robert de 
France " and " Les Girondins," upon which the 
composer was supposed to be engaged at the 
time. I am not aware whether these have been 
finished or not. Recently he has terminated 
the orchestration of Leo Delibes' " Kassya," left 

Whatever the composer's defects may be (and 

who is free from them ?), there can be no doubt 

that Massenet has indisputably a style of 

writing peculiar to himself, which is more than 



can be said of all of his " confreres." His 
individuality may not be so marked as that of 
Gounod, whose influence, by the way, can be 
traced in some of his compositions, but it is 
none the less existent, and has been reflected in 
the works of many of his pupils. 

Few musicians can touch him in the art of 
handling the orchestra. At the time when he 
was studying at the Conservatoire he astonished 
every one by the prodigious amount of work he 
got through, and the ease with which he was 
able to compose. This facility of production 
does not seem to have deserted him, and the 
danger lies, not in his composing too little, but 
in producing too much. 

Massenet's position is so well established that 
he can now afford to concentrate his mind upon 
his work without troubling himself as to whether 
or not it pleases the superficial portion of the 
public. What he now requires is a good subject 
and a well-written libretto. I trust he may find 

Although necessarily absorbed by his multi- 


farious labours, Massenet finds time occasionally 
to attend to his social duties. A story is told 
of how one evening, when he was dining out, 
the mistress of the house insisted upon making 
him listen to her daughter's playing. At the 
end of the performance, upon being asked his 
opinion, Massenet gravely remarked that it was 
quite evident that the young lady had received 
a Christian education. " Why ? " ejaculated the 
surprised parent. " Because she so scrupulously 
observes the precept of the evangelist — her right 
hand knoweth not what her left hand doeth." 



"Nowadays, more than ever, musicians have 
the leisure to occupy themselves with other 
things than music." 

These bitter words, savouring of disappointed 
expectations, occur in the preface to the volume 
entitled Notes de Musique^ written by Ernest 
Reyer and published in 1875. 

Since that time the author of the above lines 
has received a tardy compensation for a some- 
what unaccountable neglect, and his operas 
" Sigurd " and " Salammbo " have achieved what 
promises to be a permanent success at the 
Paris Opera. 

Although the composer of these works is but 
little known in this country, yet he none the less 
occupies an honourable position in the front 


rank of modern musicians. His " Sigurd," which 
was given at Covent Garden some few years 
since, did not meet with the success due to its 
unquestionable merits. 

A man of strong convictions, imbued with a 
high ideal and averse to anything approaching 
the spirit of compromise, Ernest Reyer had to 
wait longer before receiving due recognition than 
if he had been disposed to pander to the taste 
of the public at the cost of his artistic principles. 
This he has never done but he has been satisfied 
to work quietly and wait patiently until his hour 
should arrive, careless of popularity, and content 
to devote his talents to the sole cause of art. 
Born on Dec. i, 1823, at Marseilles, Ernest 
Reyer at the age of sixteen w^ent to Algeria, 
where he spent some time, living with his uncle, 
who had an appointment in the province of 

It may be that the early influences of the 

milieu in which he was thrown may have 

had something to do with developing a tefw^- 

ency he exhibited later on of setting Oriental 



subjects to music. His first important work was 
an eastern symphonic ode, entitled " Le Selam," 
the words of which were by Theophile Gautier, 
produced in 1850. This composition had the 
misfortune to come a little too late. Felicien 
David, in his "Desert," had already musically 
illustrated a subject in many ways similar, and 
the success of his work provfed detrimental to 
that of his younger colleague. 

Many years later (in 1876), Ernest Reyer was 
destined, curiously enough, to succeed Fehcien 
David as a member of the Institute. 

The debut of Reyer as a dramatic composer 
dates from the year 1854, when " Maitre 
Wolfram," a one-act opera, was produced at the 
Opera Comique. This was followed in 1858 
by "Sacuntala," a ballet, at the Opera; and 
in 1 86 1 by " La Statue," at the Theatre Lyrique. 
It was this last work which brought the com- 
poser's name in a prominent manner before the 
public. The distrust that existed at that period 
against all musicians holding so-called "ad- 
vanced " ideas naturally affected Ernest Reyer, 
209 o 


who was known to be an intimate friend of 
Berlioz, and to hold unorthodox views with 
regard to the nature of dramatic music. " Le 
Selam " had come too late, " La Statue " arrived 
too soon. At a time when the beauties of 
" Tannhaiiser " were unrecognised and this work 
had been hissed off the stage, when even 
Gounod's " Faust " was looked upon with 
suspicion, it is not surprising that a work ex- 
hibiting qualities of so serious a nature as " La 
Statue" should have met with only a partial 
success. At the same time the qualities abound- 
ing in this work were recognised by the press, 
and its author was by common consent classed 
among the most rising composers and looked 
upon as one from whom much was to be expected. 
" La Statue," in its original form, included 
spoken dialogue. On the occasion of its revival 
at the Opera Comique in 1878, the composer 
set this to music, to the great advantage of his 
work, thereby insuring that continuity which 
nowadays is rightly regarded as essential in 
operas of serious import. 


The music to this work is impregnated with 
an indefinable Oriental colouring which imparts 
to it an undoubted measure of charm. 

To Felicien David must be accorded the credit 
of being perhaps the first to employ distinctively 
Eastern characteristics. It was doubtless this 
that helped to ensure the prodigious success that 
attended " Le Desert." Without in any way 
laying himself open to the charge of plagiarism, 
Reyer may be said to have followed in Kis 
footsteps with conspicuous success. Since then 
many composers have treated Oriental subjects, 
and have endeavoured to invest their music with 
the peculiar " cachet " associated with the East. 
Amongst these may be mentioned Bizet, in his 
" Pecheurs de Perles " and " Djamileh," Rubin- 
stein in " Feramors," Goldmark in " The Queen 
of Sheba," Saint-Saens in " Samson et Dalila," 
Massenet in " Le Roi de Lahore," Bruneau in 
" Kerim," and Villiers Stanford in " The Veiled 

Bizet considered " La Statue " as the most re- 
markable opera that had been given in France 



for twenty years. It is sad that this, in company 
with many other works of value, should never 
have been offered to the judgment of the 
British public. 

The composer's next operatic venture took 
place on German soil. It was at Baden-Baden, 
at that period in the prime of its glory and the 
chosen playground of Europe, that "Erostrate," 
a two act opera, was brought out in the summer 
of 1862. 

Nothing at that moment seemed to presage 
any strained relations between France and Ger- 
many. French tourists came in crowds to the 
gay watering-place and deposited their offerings 
with a light heart in the temple of chance pre- 
sided over by Mons. Benazet ; that very same 
year a cantata, the words of which were by 
Mery and the music by Reyer, given at Baden- 
Baden, celebrated the praises of "The Rhine, 
symbol of peace." 

Quantum mutatus ab illis. The French ele- 
ment disappeared with the war of 1870, and 
the suppression of the tables has long since 


brought Baden-Baden down to the same level of 
respectability as many another " Kurort." 

Musical amateurs sojourning in the pic- 
turesque valley of the Grand Duchy of Baden 
at this epoch seem to have had a good time of it. 

Berlioz was in the habit of directing every 
year a grand festival at which were performed 
extracts from his orchestral works. Reyer states 
that each concert given by Berlioz used to cost 
a matter of 20,000 francs to Mons. Benazet the 
energetic head of the " Kurhaus." Certain it is 
that this enterprising director must have had 
strong musical proclivities, for it is to his initia- 
tive that the production of Berlioz's " Beatrice 
et Benedict " is due. This work served to in- 
augurate the opening of the new theatre at Baden. 
Two days later witnessed the first performance 
of Reyer's " Erostrate," which was shortly after- 
wards followed by another new work, " Nahel," 
by Henry Litolff. " Erostrate " seems to have 
pleased the cosmopolitan public of Baden better 
than it did Parisian amateurs when it was trans- 
ferred to the Grand Opera ten years later, where 


it was only accorded two representations. The 
composer was reproached at this time for having 
dedicated his score to the Queen of Prussia. 
As if it were possible for any one, in 1862, to 
foresee the course of events that were destined 
to happen in 1870. Patriotism occasionally 
seems to have the effect of deadening the 

It certainly appears strange that after the 
favourable reception accorded to " La Statue " 
in 1 86 1, Reyer should have been ostracised from 
the Paris theatres, if we except the two perform- 
ances of " Erostrate " in 1872, and the revivals of 
" Maitre Wolfram " in 1873, and of " La Statue " 
in 1878, for a period of twenty-four years, when 
he made a triumphal reappearance at the Opera 
with " Sigurd." This last opera had been per- 
formed the year before at Brussels. 

The Belgian capital seems to be a sort of 
refuge for those French composers who expe- 
rience a difficulty in obtaining a hearing in their 
own country. 

It was at the Theatre de la Monnaie that the 


following operas were first produced : Reyer's 
" Sigurd " and " Salammbo," Massenet's " Hero- 
diade," the brothers Hillemacher's " St. Megrin," 
Godard's "Jocelyn," and Chabrier's "Gwendo- 
line." It was also there that some of Wagner's 
later music dramas were heard for the first time 
in French. 

" Sigurd " had been composed many years 
previous to its production on the stage, and 
fragments had frequently been introduced into 
the concert-room. I recollect myself hearing 
an important extract performed at one of the 
far-famed Conservatoire concerts, and the over- 
ture at one of Pasdeloup's concerts, in 1876. 
The subject of this opera is taken from the same 
source as Wagner's " Ring des Nibelungen." 

Sigurd and Siegfried are one and the same 
individual, and many of the incidents of the 
French composer's opera are identical with 
those that occur in the " Gotterdammeriing." 
This is, of course, unfortunate, and although it 
has been pointed out that Reyer composed his 
work before the completion of the " Ring," yet 


he must have been aware that the German master 
was treating the same subject, considering that 
Wagner had published the poem of his four 
works as far back as 1853. Notwithstanding 
the reputation he had already achieved, endless 
difficulties had to be surmounted before Reyer 
was able to get his work performed. The nature 
of the subject frightened Mons. Halanzier, the 
then director of the Paris Opera, who imagined 
that the barbarous sounding names of the lead- 
ing characters might prove objectionable to the 
public. Who had ever heard of Sigurd, Hagen, 
Gunther, or Hilda? The last name seemed 
especially to act upon his nerves. "Why not 
call her Bilda ? " he exclaimed. " Do I call 
you Balanzier ? " answered Reyer. There was 
nothing for the luckless composer to do but 
wait for another opportunity, which happily oc- 
curred some years later. 

It is immensely to the French composer's credit 
that, in spite of inevitable comparisons, he should 
have been able to succeed as well as he has. 

" Sigurd " is full of dramatic power, and 


bears evidence of the constant endeavour of 
the composer to fit his music to the sense 
of the words, avoiding as much as possible 
any of those conventional effects so dear to 
the uneducated section of the public. His 
style has been described as proceeding from 
Gluck and Weber, whilst his admiration for 
Berlioz and Wagner reveals itself in the richness 
and variety of his instrumentation. This appre- 
ciation is perfectly correct, and although his 
operas may be criticised in some respects, they 
reveal a true artistic temperament both in their 
method and execution. It may be said with 
truth that Reyer's individuality is not of the 
most marked, that his melodies sometimes lack 
distinction, and that his inventive faculty is 
scarcely equal to his skill in making the most 
of his materials ; but none will contest the true 
artistic feeling that presides over all his compo- 
sitions, or deny him the possession of strongly 
pronounced convictions impelling him to do his 
utmost towards raising the standard of operatic 



After having been the first town to offer hos- 
pitahty to " Sigurd," Brussels was destined to 
have the primeur of " Salammbo," the last opera 
that Reyer has composed, which was brought 
out in 1890 with great eclat, and produced later 
on in Paris, where it at once succeeded in estab- 
lishing itself in the favour of the pubHc. Per- 
haps of somewhat less sustained interest than 
" Sigurd," the music of " Salammbo " shows the 
same tendencies on the part of its composer to 
adhere to a strict interpretation of the drama, 
and contains many pages of great beauty. 
Those who have read Flaubert's powerful and 
imaginative work will probably consider it some- 
what unsuited for the purposes of a " lyrical 
drama." It must be admitted, however, that 
the composer has found in it a subject well 
adapted to his artistic temperament, and that it 
has enabled him to produce a work which is an 
honour both to himself and to his country. 

The production of "Salammbo" in London 
is an event much to be desired, and a revival 
of "Sigurd" would also be of the greatest 


interest. Now that the British public are more 
familiarised with Wagner's "Nibelungen Ring" 
they would be able to draw interesting compari- 
sons between the treatment of the same legend 
by the German master and the French com- 

If Reyer has acquired a well deserved 
reputation in France as a composer, he is 
equally well known as a writer on music, and 
for many years has occupied the post of critic 
to the Journal des Debuts^ formerly held by 

The opinions advanced by Reyer have 
always been remarkable for sound common 
sense. An intimate friend and ardent admirer 
of Berlioz, he enjoys the credit of having been 
one of the first in France to recognise the 
genius of Wagner. 

The perfect honesty of his convictions is 
apparent to those who read his writings with 
care, and it may in passing be noted to his 
honour that when the course of time and 
increased acquaintance with his subject have 


caused him to modify any previously expressed 
opinions, he has never hesitated to say so. No 
one is infallible, but many pretend so to be. 

When travelling in Germany in 1864 Reyer, 
who was already a strong admirer of Wagner's 
earlier works, had occasion to run through the 
score of "Tristan," then still unperformed. 
The first impressions produced upon him by 
this most complicated of scores was not a 
favourable one, and Reyer in stating this 
avowed that his admiration for the German 
master would stop at "Lohengrin," until the 
beauties of the "Nibelungen Ring" should 
have been revealed to him. 

In 1884 when the first act of "Tristan" was 
given at one of Mons. Lamoureux's concerts, 
Reyer made amends for the appreciation some- 
what hastily recorded by him twenty years 
previously by expressing his intense admira- 
tion for the wondrous beauties of this sublime 
work. "What a metamorphosis," he wrote, 
" had taken place in my musical faculties during 
twenty years ! But also what a difference in 


the execution ! It was the first time that I 
was hearing 'Tristan ' with the orchestra." 

Reyer in his criticisms has always held up 
the banner of high art, and his writings will 
doubtless not have been without influence in 
determining the nature of the musical move- 
ment in France during these last few years. 
His admiration for Berlioz has not diminished, 
whilst his admiration for Wagner has increased. 
Apropos of the " Proserpine " of Saint-Saens, he 
wrote : " We are practically all affected with 
Wagnerism, perhaps at different degrees ; but 
we have drunk and we will drink at the same 
source, and the sole precaution for us to take is 
not to drown our own personahty." 

This frank avowal may not be to the taste of 
all French composers, but it is none the less 

Ernest Reyer has almost entirely confined 
himself to operatic compositions. He is not a 
quick worker, and his operas all bear evidence 
of thought and an avoidance of claptrap effects. 

He is still a bachelor and has the appearance 



rather of a retired military officer than of the tradi- 
tional musician. Reyer is bibliothecaire of the 
Opera, and inhabits a quiet little apartment on a 
fifth floor, where he is able to work undisturbed 
and meditate upon the trials and uncertainties 
of a composer's existence. 



In the month of November 1891, there was 
brought out at Covent Garden Theatre a work 
that had the effect of setting the musical world 
of London into a state of ferment. This was 
" Le Reve," a musical rendering of Emile Zola's 
well-known romance, by the composer whose 
name heads this chapter. The absolute uncon- 
ventionality of the music, the boldness and the 
novelty of the composer's method, took the 
public by surprise and led to many a discussion, 
at the end of which both antagonists and 
supporters remained unconvinced and, as is 
generally the case, retained their own opinions. 
. It has always appeared to me to be idle to 
attempt to impose one's ideas upon the relative 
merits of a composition on those whose disposi- 


tion is antagonistic to its due appreciation. 
There are many to whom the later works of 
Wagner appear as a senseless agglomeration of 
notes, devoid of meaning and destitute of feel- 
ing, a mere jumble of sound. These people are 
doubtless absolutely sincere in their convic- 
tions. Where is the argument that would 
cause them to change their minds? If no 
sympathetic current is generated between the 
music and the listener, it may be taken for 
granted that these are not meant one for 
another, and all the arguments in the world will 
not alter the fact. On the other hand there 
can be no doubt that increased familiarity often 
causes the reversal of a previously expressed 
opinion, one sometimes formulated in undue 
haste, and this is especially the case with a 
work such as " Le Reve," the tendencies of 
which are so novel and the methods so uncom- 
promising in their thoroughness. 

The composer has boldly flown in the face of 
recognised traditions and flung all compromise 
to the four winds. He has treated " Le Reve " 


according to his own ideas, careless as to 
whether these should be agreeable to the 
vocalist, who looks upon an opera solely as the 
means of displaying his voice; to the average 
amateur, whose fondness for a good square tune 
of doubtful originality is as great as ever ; or to 
the musical pedant who gauges the value of an 
art-work according to the theoretical ideas of a 
past generation. 

Art and literature have during the last few 
years been invaded by a strong current of 
reahsm. The marked tendency exhibited by 
the present generation of inquiring minutely 
into all matters and subjecting them to a 
searching process of analysis, has been pregnant 
in its results. The physiology of the mind 
appears to be the leading factor in the works of 
many of the lights of contemporary literature. 
This is discernible in the writings of poets like 
Swinburne and George Barlow, in the novels of 
Emile Zola and Alphonse Daudet, and in the 
studies of Tolstoi, to mention only a few. In 
music the same tendencies are apparent, and it 
225 p 


is rather the inner motives of the action than its 
outward details that the serious operatic com- 
poser is tempted to depict. 

Bruneau exempHfies the latest phase of that 
evolution that has been taking place during 
recent years in the domain of dramatic music. 
It may be taken for granted that the theory 
enunciated by Gluck in his preface to " Alceste " 
more than a hundred years ago has now come 
to be universally adopted. This is, that " the 
true aim and object of dramatic music is to 
enhance the effect and situations of a poem, 
without interrupting the dramatic action or 
marring the effect by unnecessary ornamenta- 
tion." It is this which forms the basis of 
Wagner's theories. There are, however, many 
other points of importance raised by the German 
master which practically amount to innovations. 
Of these none has perhaps a greater bearing on 
the construction of the " lyrical drama " of the 
future than the employment of kit-7?iotiven, or 
representative themes. 

It has been argued that Wagner can scarcely 


claim to be the actual inventor of this 

To this it may be replied that Wagner's 
method differs essentially from that followed by 
any of his predecessors. The bare repetition of 
a phrase previously heard may be dramatically 
significant, but it only represents the Wagnerian 
idea in its most embryonic form, and has little 
in common with a system subject to which an 
entire opera is constructed upon a certain 
number of themes susceptible of being modified 
and transformed according to the sentiments 
expressed by the words. Whatever objections 
may be adduced against such a system if 
pushed to its furthest limits and adopted as 
rigorously as Wagner has in his later " music 
dramas," it must be conceded that it opens a 
large field to the composer and adds a powerful 
element of interest to the musical exposition of 
a plot. 

So far, French composers who have profited 
by Wagner's many innovations have shown 
themselves shy in following the master in this 


particular one. Some of them have, it is true, 
adopted it to a certain extent, and endeavoured 
to effect a compromise by trying at the same 
time to retain set pieces of the kind associated 
with the older forms of opera. Saint-Saens in 
" Henri VIII." and " Ascanio," Massenet in 
" Esclarmonde," to name only two, have 
exhibited a marked tendency in this direction, 
It has, however, been reserved for Alfred 
Bruneau to employ the Wagnerian plan in a 
more complete way than any French composer 
has yet done. I am not here venturing to 
express an opinion as to whether or not the 
total absence of set form in an opera is advis- 
able. It is evidently quite possible to compose 
a "lyrical drama" on a different plan than one 
entailing the strict employment of representative 
themes. Art should comprise every method 
that is likely to add to its scope, and the use of 
leit-motiven opens a vista of illimitable possi- 
bilities to the composer of the future. It is a 
powerful agent of dramatic expression, and one 
which requires musical ability of a very high 


order if it is to be employed in any profitable 
manner. When I mention Alfred Bruneau as 
being perhaps the first French composer who 
has applied the Wagnerian system so thoroughly 
in his " lyrical dramas," it must not be implied 
that he is in any way a servile imitator of the 
German master, and he must not be confounded 
with composers who, having no original ideas 
of their own, trade upon those of other people. 
As his friend and collaborator Mons. Louis 
Gallet remarks in his Notes d'un Librettisfe, 
"Son criterium est tout personel." There is 
one point, for instance, in which he diverges 
entirely from Wagner. This is in his choice of 
subjects. Instead of searching for inspiration in 
the legendary lore so dear to the composer of 
" Tristan," Bruneau prefers to musically illustrate 
a story of modern life. His ideas upon the 
lyrical drama are best expressed in his own 
words, and I do not scruple to reproduce the 
following passage from a letter addressed to 
myself : " Je suis pour I'union aussi intime que 
possible de la musique et des paroles, et 


voudrais faire du theatre vivant, humain et 
bref. J'aurais aussi I'ambition de traiter une 
suite de sujets essentiellement Fran^ais et 
modernes d'action comme de sentiments. 
C'est pourquoi, apres ' Le Reve,' d'un 
mysticisme bien Franc^ais je crois, viendra 
' L'Attaque du moulin,' drame pris au cueur 
saignant de notre pays. Mais la suite n'est 
qu'un projet que je n'aurai peut-etre jamais la 
force de mettre a execution." 

It is the human element that predominates in 
Bruneau's compositions which constitutes so 
powerful a fascination to those who are in 
sympathy with his ideas. His music is not 
theatrical in the ordinary acceptation of the 
term but intensely dramatic, inasmuch as it 
aims at depicting the innermost details of the 
action, and describes in searching accents the 
varied emotions of the leading characters. 

He has been blamed for his disregard of the 
so-called rules of harmony, and for apparently 
revelling in the employment of discords, strange 
progressions, and harsh modulations. Let it be 


remembered that there is scarcely a composer 
of eminence who has not been subjected to the 
same reproach. To take a few of the most notable 
instances, it is only necessary to mention the 
cases of Schumann, Wagner, Berlioz, and Bizet. 
A name that may carry conviction even further 
is that of Beethoven. Is it not a fact that within 
the memory of some who are still amongst us, the 
" Choral Symphony " was stigmatised as the work 
of a genius whose powers were on the wane, 
and this mighty work was pronounced dull and 
incoherent ? 

The question as to how far a composer may 
go in his search after novel effects, and what 
discords he may or may not employ, is one 
that cannot easily be answered. Where is the 
musician who will have the presumption to erect 
himself as the supreme arbiter upon so complex 
a question, and venture to say to the composer, 
" Thus far shalt thou go and no further? " 

Undoubtedly there must be rules of some 
kind, but these are intended for the student and 
are not meant to hamper the inspiration of the 


master. In order to explain my meaning I 
cannot do better than quote the following extract 
from the preface of Mr. Ebenezer Prout's admir- 
able work on " Harmony,"* which conclusively 
disposes of the question : 

" The principle must surely be wrong which 
places the rules of an early stage of musical 
development above the inspirations of genius ! 
Haydn, when asked according to what rules he 
had introduced a certain harmony, replied that 
'The rules were all his very obedient humble 
servants ; ' and when we find that in our own 
time Wagner, or Brahms, or Dvorak, breaks 
some rule given in old text books, there is, 
to say the least, a very strong presumption, not 
that the composer is wrong, but that the rule 
needs modifying. In other words practice must 
precede theory. The inspired composer goes 
first, and invents new effects ; it is the business 
of the theorist not to cavil at every novelty, 
but to follow modestly behind, and make his 
rules conform to the practice of the master." 
* Published by Messrs. Augener. 


These are golden words, involving a precept 
that should be seriously taken to heart by those 
who are inclined to pass a hasty verdict upon 
works exhibiting tendencies of a novel nature. 
At the same time it does not follow that com- 
posers of inferior talent should be allowed a 
liberty which with them often degenerates into 
licence, and imagine that it is only necessary 
for them to stud their scores with consecutive 
fifths and octaves, and avoid any but the most 
out-of-the-way modulations in order at once to 
be ranked as men of genius. There is a vast 
amount of difference between the crude har- 
monies, obviously introduced for effect, that 
occur in the scores of some composers, and 
those employed with a due sense of dramatic 
fitness by a musician like Bruneau. 

The composer of " Le Reve " was born on 
the I St of March 1857. He is, therefore, at 
the present time in the full flush of his creative 
ability, and his powers of production have 
doubtless not yet reached their full maturity 
of expression. There is no knowing how far 


a musician of his calibre may not eventually go, 
or what works he may be destined to produce. 
Up to the present he has shown a wonderful 
amount of independence of thought, and his 
very exaggerations are the evident outcome of 
I a consistent striving to attain an elevated ideal. 
Alfred Bruneau's musical studies were begun 
in a brilliant manner at the Paris Conservatoire, 
where he obtained the first prize for violoncello 
in 1876. He entered into the composition 
class, presided over by Massenet, and finally, in 
i88i, triumphantly carried off the "Prix de 
Rome." This was already a great step towards 
fame and fortune, although it has been proved 
over and over again that it leads to neither. 
Many an old winner of the " Prix de Rome " 
has, after a fruitless struggle, been compelled to 
give up the game and resign himself to a life of 
comparative obscurity. For an artist to remain 
true to his convictions and resist the temptations 
thrown in his way of obtaining an ephemeral 
popularity by pandering to the taste of the 
public, is not always so easy an achievement 


as it may appear. It was through the means of 
the concert-room that Alfred Bruneau's name 
first became known to the musical public of 
Paris. An " Ouverture Heroi'que," a symphonic 
poem entitled " La Belle au bois dormant," and 
" Leda," styled a " poeme antique ; " these 
works were played at different times, and sufficed 
to stamp their author as a musician of undeniable 
capacity and distinct promise. " Penthesilee " 
is the name of a symphonic poem of great 
daring and originality for a solo voice and 
orchestra, which was only recently produced 
at one of Mons. Colonne's concerts. It is a 
musical interpretation of some wild and striking 
stanzas by the poet CatuUe Mendes. Thoroughly 
independent in structure as it is in its workman- 
ship, bold almost to excess, distinguished by a 
most unconventional harmonic treatment, this 
composition exhibits a masterly grip that irre- 
sistibly commands attention. The interest 
may be said to be mainly concentrated in the 
orchestra, the voice part being strictly declama- 



It is, however, through his conception of 
the "lyrical drama" that Bruneau especially 
asserts his individuality. 

" Kerim," his first stage work, brought out in 
1887 at the Theatre du Chateau d'Eau, pro- 
visionally given up to operatic performances, 
does not appear to have excited much attention, 
possibly owing to the inadequacy of the inter- 
pretation. In. this work, the tendencies which 
are so accentuated in " Le Reve " are already 
foreshadowed. There is but little in this 
interesting score that denotes the beginner, and 
'' Ke'rim" is distinguished by qualities for which 
we may search in vain through the pages of 
many works that have acquired a greater popu- 
larity. For some reason hard to assign, operas 
dealing with Eastern subjects do not seem to 
appeal readily to the taste of the public, at any 
rate in England. And yet what delightful 
musical impressions are evoked by the recollec- 
tion of works such as Goldmark's " Queen of 
Sheba," Cornelius' " Barber of Bagdad," Bizet's 
" Djamileh " and others ! It may be remarked 


enpassant that the fact of the first of these 
works being practically unknown on this side 
of the channel scarcely redounds to our 

From the very first page of " Kerim," it 
becomes evident that we are in the presence of 
a composer who has something new to say and 
who intends to say it whether or not it pleases 
the musical faculty or those who measure the 
value of a work according to a preconceived 

In the matter of harmonic boldness Bruneau 
goes to very great lengths, and from this point 
of view alone the score of " Kerim " will prove 
highly interesting to musicians. The plan upon 
which he works is admirably logical. He 
commences by exposing some of his most 
important themes in their simplest guise, so 
that they may in a way impose themselves upon 
the attention of the listener. These are then 
subjected to various transformations according 
to the sense of the words they are intended to 
interpret, and are heard in different forms, either 


singly or jointly, being employed in combination 
when the composer has m view the expression 
of some complex sentiment. It is this system, 
which in a more embryonic form is apparent in 
" Kerim," that constitutes the constructive basis 
of " Le Reve." 

The first of these works, which is termed an 
opera, but has more of the characteristics of the 
lyrical drama, treats of an Eastern legend. 

An emir of Beyrouth (nothing in common 
with Baireuth !), is in love with an unknown 
maiden who appears to him in his sleep and 
.tells him that she will belong to him if he finds 
her some tears that are the outcome of a truly 
suffering heart. These will then be turned into 
pearls which he can offer her. The emir 
pursues his quest far and wide without success, 
and finally himself bursts into tears which are 
suddenly transformed into pearls. The object 
of his thoughts then appears and tells him that 
he has found what she required, and that the 
tears produced by genuine love have won her 
as his own. 



It can scarcely be said that the above story 
offers material of a particular interesting 
order. It has, however, been sufficient to 
furnish Bruneau with the opportunity of 
exercising his skill and displaying his fancy 
often to great advantage. Before taking leave 
of " Kerim " I may point out, for the benefit of 
those who might experience the curiosity of 
perusing this score, the monologue for tenor in 
the first act with its delightful accompaniment 
in canon, the effective treatment of some 
popular Oriental tunes, and specially the con- 
sistent working out of the representative themes. 
I must also mention the delicious "Adagietto," 
sung by the heroine in the last act, as an example 
of simple and pure melody. 

There are certain legends that require a long 
time before they are dispelled, and the accusa- 
tion that for a considerable while hung over the 
heads of Wagner and Berlioz of being deficient 
in melodic power, has been levelled against 
many other composers. Bruneau has not 
escaped it, but he may console himself with the 


thought that he is m very good company. It is 
I think Liszt who invented the excellent defini- 
tion of a species of melody " a plusieurs etages," 
which it is not given to every one to grasp. 

We now come to the work that has been 
instrumental in bringing the name of Bruneau 
to the front in a prominent manner. If " Le 
Reve," which was first played at the Paris Opera 
Comique in 1891, has given rise to much 
controversy, it has at any rate not been passed 
by in silence or damned with faint praise. 

The mysticism and poetical charm of Zola's 
book, so different to the majority of novels by 
the apostle of realism, has caused it to be 
widely appreciated even in circles where his 
romances are not usually admitted. Bruneau's 
desire originally had been to write a "lyrical 
drama " upon " La Faute de I'abbe Mouret." It 
was only when he found that Massenet had 
chosen the same subject that he was forced to 
give up the idea and turn his attention to " Le 
Reve." I am not aware whether Massenet has 
abandoned his intention of turning " La Faute 

Act /. 


de I'abbe Mouret " into an opera or not. Now 
that composers appear bent upon introducing 
realism into their music, it is not impossible 
that even " L'Assommoir " may eventually serve 
as the groundwork of an operatic textbook. We 
trust that this will not be so. However realistic 
musicians may strive to be, they should not 
associate their muse with themes that are not 
susceptible of being idealised. 

The desire nowadays of musically photo- 
graphing, if I may employ a somewhat far- 
fetched comparison, certain types of humanity 
is excellent in its way. But it is as well in so 
doing to choose a period remote from our,s, 
where no sense of incongruity can be produced 
through the appearance of operatic characters 
clad in the prosaic garb of the present day. 
The general characteristics of humanity have 
always been the same, and Wagner, with his 
marvellous poetical insight, knew well what he 
was about when he drew the subjects of his 
" music dramas " from mythical sources. 

In " Le Reve " Bruneau has written a work 
241 g 


remarkable in point of originality and sustained 
expression. His music must be either accepted 
in its entirety or rejected altogether. Upon 
those who appreciate its beauties it exercises an 
irresistible fascination. Bruneau is a psycho- 
logist, and he aims at musically describing the 
innermost feelings of the soul. He has also in 
" Le Reve " proved himself to be an idealist. 

I will in a few words endeavour to sketch the 
subject-matter of this admirable work. 

Angelique is a young girl, the adopted child 
of a respectable old couple, embroiderers by trade. 
She is subject to hallucinations, and through 
constantly reading a book entitled " The Golden 
Legend," dealing with the lives of saints and 
martyrs, fancies she hears voices in the air, and 
dreams of the arrival of a prince who will come 
and carry her off. As the first scene closes, she 
imagines she sees the one she has been dreaming 
of, who turns out to be the son of the Bishop 
Jean d'Hautecoeur, still sorrowing for the wife 
he lost many years ago. It stands to reason 
that the two young people fall in love with one 


another, and that the course of their love, 
according to the usual precedent, does not run 
smooth. The bishop intends his son to become 
a priest and refuses to consent to his marriage, 
remaining deaf to his entreaties. Angelique 
thereupon pines away and is on the point of 
death, when her lover finally induces his father 
to give in, and save her by performing a miracle 
such as was accomplished by his ancestor, who 
cured the sufferers of a plague by kissing them 
on the forehead and using the words, " Si Dieu 
veut, je veux," which have since become the 
motto of his family. The Bishop yields and 
performs the miracle. The lovers are about to 
be united, but at the very porch of the church 
where they are to be married, Angelique hears 
voices in the air calling to her, she staggers, and 
dies. This last scene was omitted at Covent 

As I have previously remarked, " Le Reve " 
is constructed entirely upon a number of repre- 
sentative themes. There is a practically com- 
plete absence of set pieces, the work running its 


course uninterruptedly without a break. Bruneau 
has in fact treated his setting of Zola's book in a 
form that might be best described as " speech in 
song" accompanied by an orchestral commentary. 
It is doubtful though whether the word " accom- 
pany" can be used at all in connection with 
his music, seeing that the most important part is 
allotted to the orchestra. The themes employed 
are most impressive, thoroughly characteristic, 
and well adapted for polyphonic treatment. There 
are certain scenes in which the melodic interest 
lies mainly in the voice parts, although the 
instrumental portion is invariably pregnant with 
suggestion, fragments of motives being blended 
together and worked in with consummate skill. 
Angelique's appeal to the Bishop is one of these, 
and is marked by genuine dramatic feeling. 
One of the most strikingly original scenes is the 
one comprising the Bishop's monologue. The 
poignant accents are admirably fitted to describe 
the emotions of one whose life has been blighted 
'through the loss of the woman he loved, and 
v;hose determination to force his son into the 


priesthood is shaken by the affection he bears 

Pages such as these are sufficient in them- 
selves to stamp their author as an artist of the 
first rank and a musician of genius. 

The chorus occupies but a small place in 
" Le Reve," and the choristers are never seen 
upon the stage. A few bars for the sopranos, 
supposed to represent the voices in the air 
heard by Angelique, an "Ave verum," sung 
in the cathedral, and an old French hymn 
heard in the distance sung as a procession is 
passing underneath the windows, represent the 
choral numbers. 

At the commencement of the second scene we 
have a lively dance to an old French tune. In 
this place I think the effect would have been 
greatly enhanced by the adjunction of voices to 
the orchestra. This would have been aesthetic- 
ally correct, as there is a certain incongruity in 
the fact of a number of young girls dancing and 
apparently enjoying themselves in silence. 

I would draw attention to the admirable 


delineation of the dear old embroiderers, as 
kindly a couple as could well be imagined, a 
creation that Dickens might well envy, whose 
characteristics have been musically transcribed 
by Bruneau in accents so suave and so touch- 

The composer of " Le Reve " possesses the 
sense of contrast to a very high degree. Wit- 
ness the manner in which he has set the 
following words when the Bishop describes how 
his motto, " Si Dieu veut, je veux ! " came to be 
adopted by his family : 

" Pendafit une peste cruelle, 
II pria tant que Dieu le fit vainqueiir 
Du terrible fleau. — Pour ramener la vie 
Aiix corps deja glaces par I'agonie, 

II se penchait vers eux, 
Les baisait snr la boitche et n'avait Hen qu'a dire 

Aux mourants : 'Si Dieu veut, je veux!' 

On voyait les mourants sojtrire ; 
Car, des qu'il les touchait des livres sextlement, 
Les malades iiaient gucris soudainement."* 

* A special word of praise must here be accorded to 
Mons. Louis Gallet, the author of the book, whose 
version of Zola's romance is eminently poetical. 


The part dealing with the description of the 
plague is accompanied by a strange and grue- 
some succession of chords, which gradually 
leads to a lovely melody typical of the miracle 
that is supposed to have been worked. Nothing 
can be more appropriate than the strains that 
accompany the above words to w^hich they 
appear intimately allied. 

When " Le Reve " was given at Covent 
Garden it was accorded a w^ell-nigh perfect 
rendering. Mdlle. Simonnet realised the cha- 
racter of Angelique to the life, and imparted 
an infinity of charm to the music. The part 
of the Bishop furnished Mons. Bouvet with 
the opportunity of presenting an admirable 
character study. The remaining parts were 
exceptionally well performed by Mdme. Des- 
champs-Jehin, and Messrs. Engel and Lorrain. 
A better ensemble it would be difficult to 
imagine. The orchestra was conducted by 
Mons. Jehin. 

Like so many other composers, Alfred Bru- 
neau is also a musical critic, and has succeeded 


the late Victor Wilder in that capacity upon the 
Gil Bias. 

Victor Wilder was ever one of the strongest 
advocates of Wagner on the Parisian press, and 
it is to him that are due the excellent transla- 
tions into French of the master's later music 

It may be interesting to my readers to peruse 
a specimen of Bruneau's writing, and I will 
therefore cite an extract from an article he 
lately wrote concerning the first performance 
of the "Walkiire" in Paris, in which he 
lucidly defines the difference existing between 
the old-fashioned opera and the "lyrical drama." 
I must apologise if my translation fails to do 
justice to the original. 

" It is not only the independence of music 
{Thidepeitdence des sons) that we owe to 
Richard Wagner. Owing to his prodigious 
genius, the musical drama has entered into a 
new era, an era of true reason, of rigorous good 
sense and of perfect logic. No one nowadays 
is unaware of the profound dissimilarity existing 


between the 'lyrical drama' and the opera. 
In the one, the music unites itself intimately to 
the poetry in order to impart life, movement, 
passionate interest to a human action, the 
course of which must run uninterruptedly from 
the rising of the curtain to the last scene. 

"In the other, the music is divided into a 
number of pieces which are occasionally 
nothing but cumbersome hors d'a'uvres, the 
traditional form of which hampers the action of 
actors and choristers contrary to the most 
elementary scenic necessities. 

" In the one, the symphony comments upon 
the inward thoughts of the different characters, 
makes known the reasons that cause them to 
act, and whilst depicting their natures, magic- 
ally evokes before our eyes the subtle and 
fabulous scenes dreamed of by our fancy. 

" In the other, with a singular docility, the 
orchestra submits itself to the slavery of the 
voice. Its function, which is absolutely 
secondary, consists in accompanying the voices, 
in playing ritourneUes^ in striking a few chords 


during which the recitatives ar^ being declaimed, 
and in more or less harmoniously accompanying 
■^ the entries an^^xits. 

"Alone the overture is reserved ; and even this 
often serves but as a pretext for the composition 
of a piece of instrumental display rather than as 
a description of sentiments and facts. 

" In the one, the melody is infinite, as Richard 
Wagner has rightly expressed it; it goes and 
comes, moves from the voices to the orchestra, 
ever renewing itself in the freedom of its flight. 

" In the other, it appears only in certain 
places : if the vocal portion is melodious, the 
accompaniment is rudimentary and the tradi- 
tional recitative endlessly intervening in the 
middle of the music in order to divide it into 
set forms, arbitrarily condemns melody to 
submit to wretched formulas and snatches away 
its wings." 

In the course of the same article, Bruneau 
expresses himself thus : 

" These are, how^ever, terms imagined rather 
for the purpose of defending certain ideas 


than for designating certain works, as there 
exist in the classical form of opera masterpieces 
worthy of eternal and fervent admiration. One 
does not necessarily run down works such as 
' Don Juan,' ' Fidelio,' ' Iphigenie,' and so many 
others in desiring the rejuvenescence of an art 
that owes to these masterpieces its imperishable 

"After Gluck, Mozart, Beethoven, Wagner, 
fresh innovators will come, who, respectful of 
the traditions of the past and eager for the con- 
quests of the future, will still further enlarge the 
fi^ld of action of the musical drama." 

The above words may be taken in a measure 
as furnishing Bruneau's profession of faith as 
regards matters operatic. He has finished the 
score of a new " lyrical drama " entitled 
" L'Attaque du Moulin," founded upon a tale of 
Zola, which at the time I am writing has not 
yet been performed. It is to be produced 
shortly at the Paris Opera Comique Theatre. 

I must not fail to allude to Bruneau's cha- 
racteristic settings of Catulle Mendes' " Lieds 


de France," which are distinguished by an 
evidently studied simpUcity of expression. 

Unless I am mistaken, it was the late Victor 
Wilder, his predecessor oh the Gil Bias who 
once alluded to the composer of " Le Reve " as 
"the standard-bearer of the young French 
school," a quahfication to which he is, in my 
humble estimation, well entitled. 

Note. — Since this volume has gone to press, 
" L'Attaque du Mouhn " has been produced at the 
Paris Opera Comique, with great success. 



It may with truth be averred that France has 
never been so well provided with composers of 
talent as she is at the present time. Every year 
the far-famed Conservatoire turns out a number 
of young men whose musical knowledge is un- 
deniable, and who are all of them filled with 
buoyant hopes of achieving distinction in the 
arena of fame. The musical progress that has 
been effected in France during the last thirty 
years is .immense. This may be largely 
attributed to the initiative of Pasdeloup* the 
organiser and conductor of the celebrated 
concerts which were started at the Cirque 
d'Hiver in 1861, and to the zeal and talent of 

* Jules Pasdeloup, born 1819, died 1887. 


his successors Messrs. Lamoureux and Colonne. 
It is through the efforts of the above inde- 
fatigable chefs d^orchestre that instrumental 
music of a high class has come to be generally 
appreciated in Paris. The famous Conservatoire 
concerts, it must be remembered, were, and 
are, only accessible to a few privileged indi- 

Pasdeloup began his work by familiarising 
the Parisians with the symphonic works of 
Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven. Mendelssohn 
and Schumann followed, and the valiant chef 
(Torchestre from time to time introduced the 
names of Berlioz and Wagner. The appearance 
of the latter on the programme generally fore- 
shadowed a disturbance. Nowadays, when we 
witness the spectacle of large crowds listening 
in wrapt attention to some of the most compli- 
cated works of the great master at the concerts 
of Messrs. Lamoureux and Colonne, it seems 
difficult to realise the possibility of such turbu- 
lent scenes as I remember myself witnessing 
only a few years since at the Pasdeloup con- 


certs. On one occasion a performance of the 
Prelude to "Lohengrin" produced a veritable 
disturbance, one section of the audience 
desiring to hear it over again in spite of the 
manifest opposition displayed by the major 
portion of the spectators. Pasdeloup adopted 
the sensible course of making an impromptu 
speech, in which he said that as many people 
wished to hear the Prelude once more he 
would repeat it at the end of the concert, 
when those who objected to it would be at 
liberty to retire. By thus severing the Gordian 
knot the clever chef (f orcheslre effectually dis- 
posed of the difficulty to the manifest disappoint- 
ment of the anti-Wagnerites present. 

The members of the younger generation of 
French composers have had no cause to com- 
plain of any want of hospitality at the hands of 
either Pasdeloup or Messrs. Lamoureux* and 
Colonne,t and many a now well-known musician 
has won his spurs through their help. 

It would almost appear as if a veil which for 
* Lamoureux, b. 1834. t Colonne, b. 1838. 



a long period had obscured the vision of the 
musical section of the public had at length been 
removed. The genius of Berlioz and that of 
Wagner are now uncontested, unless it be by a 
few retrograde individuals whose opinions are 
not entitled to any weight, and the influence of 
these masters upon the modern French school 
has been both great and far-reaching. It is 
highly regrettable that the spirit of free trade 
is not acted upon to a greater extent in the 
matter of musical affairs. If this were the 
case we should be afforded more chances of 
becoming acquainted with the works of those 
members of the young, and if I may so 
term it, militant French school, which are 
not sufficiently known on this side of the 

In like manner, our native composers might 
be given the opportunity of proving to the 
Parisians the fallacy of the notion, seemingly 
entertained abroad, that England is destitute of 
creative musical talent. Art has not, or ought 
not to have, any boundaries. That which is 


good deserves to be known and to survive ; as 
for the rest, it matters not. 

In music, time seems to march with dis- 
concerting rapidity. Composers who but a 
few years since were considered as hopelessly 
advanced in their ideas are now in danger of 
being left behind by their juniors. 

One of the most ardent champions of the 
new school of thought some years ago was 
Victorin Joncieres, who enjoys a well-estab- 
lished reputation in Paris as composer and 

Born in 1839, this artist is the author of 
several operas denoting aptitudes of no mean 
order, although devoid of any distinctive origin- 
ality. Passing by such early works as " Sardan- 
apale "(1867), and " Le dernier jour de Pompei " 
(1869), we come to " Dimitri," which contains 
several good numbers, " La Reine Berthe " 
(1878), and " Le Chevalier Jean " (1885). This 
last work has been played in Germany with 
success under the title of " Johann von Loth- 
ringen." " Dimitri " and " Le Chevalier Jean " 
257 R 


may be looked upon as the composer's best 

The influence of Wagner's earHer style is very 
apparent in these works. Mons. Joncieres is 
also the author of an interesting "Symphonic 
Romantique." As a critic he has done much 
to aid the cause of Wagner in France, although 
not going to the length of some of the master's 
thick and thin admirers. 

A musician of a different type is Theodore 
Dubois, born in 1837. This composer, like his 
friend Camille Saint-Saens, whom he succeeded 
as organist at the Madeleine, has written a great 
deal and attempted a variety of genres. 
Amongst his works it will be sufficient to men- 
tion the opera " Aben Hamet," the ballet " La 
Farandole," the concert overture "Frithjoff," 
" Paradise Lost," an oratorio which gained the 
prize offered by the city of Paris in 1878, and 
his setting of the " Seven Words of the Cross " 

Besides these, Theodore Dubois, who won 
the " Prix de Rome " in 1861, is the author of 


a number of orchestral works, piano music, and 
religious compositions which denote talent of 
an uncommon order and exhibit qualities that 
entitle him to occupy an important place 
amongst contemporary musicians. 

Another composer whose name is better 
known in England, and who has also achieved 
distinction as an organist, is Charles Marie 
Widor, born in 1845, several of whose composi- 
tions have been heard at the Philharmonic and 
Crystal Palace Concerts. This composer has 
given proof of a considerable amount of versa- 
tility in his different contributions to orchestral 
and chamber music, also in his charming ballet 
" La Korrigane." His opera " Maitre Ambros '' 
did not meet with success. He has also written 
a quantity of excellent piano music and many 
songs. There is imagination and skill displayed 
in Widor's compositions, and much may yet be 
expected from him. 

If the name of Widor is known in England, 
the same may be said of Benjamin Godard, 
born in 1849, i^^ whom we have one of 


the most prolific of the younger genera- 
tion of French composers. Godard exhibits 
a decided individuaUty of his own. He is 
endowed with an extraordinary faciHty of pro- 
duction, and is, in fact, apt to err on the side 
of over-productivity, and to spread his talents 
over too large an area. His dramatic poem 
" Le Tasse," which won the prize offered by 
the city of Paris in 1879, is a work of con- 
siderable importance, revealing an undoubted 

With his operas " Pedro de Zalamea," 
" Jocelyn," " Dante," Godard has been less suc- 
cessful. It is in works such as the " Concerto 
Romantique " for violin, the " Symphonic Le- 
gendaire," the piano trio, amongst others, that 
his talent finds its true expression. The com- 
poser of these works is in the full force of his 
powers, and it is not too much to state the 
belief that he has yet much to say. Godard is 
perhaps greater in small things than he is in large. 
There is an exquisite charm in some of his songs 
such as " Ninon," and " Te souviens tu," whilst 


many of his piano pieces have a savour all their 

Emile Paladhile, born in 1844, is the com- 
poser of the famous " MandoHnata," which has 
been warbled by every vocalist all the world 
over. This single melody has probably done 
more to render his name popular than all his 
other works put together. His opera " Patrie " 
has met with success in Paris. Amongst his 
other dramatic works may be mentioned 
" Le Passant," " L'Amour Africain," and 
" Suzanne." 

Some composers are doomed to wait a long 
while before an opportunity is offered them of 
obtaining a hearing. Such has not been the 
case with Gervais Bernard Salvayre, born in 
1847, ^^'ho has had several operas performed, 
without, however, so far scoring any great 

His first opera, " Le Bravo " played in 1877, 

was favourably received, but none of his later 

works, "Egmont," "Richard HI.," or "La 

Dame de Monsoreaux," have succeeded in 



themselves in the repertoire. 
The second of these, unless I am mistaken, was 
first produced in St. Petersburg, and the last at 
the Paris Opera, where it was a complete fiasco. 
This composer is also the author of a ballet 
entitled " La Fandango," a " Stabat Mater," and 
several other works, including a graceful " Air 
varie " for stringed instruments. 

As the dimensions of this volume are re- 
stricted, I am unable to do more than draw 
attention to some composers whose works would 
merit more than a cursory mention. Amongst 
these I may name the erudite Bourgault-Ducou- 
dray, Lenepveu, whose opera "Velleda" was 
brought out in London some years ago with 
Mme. Patti in the principal part, Henri Mare- 
chal, the brothers Hillemacher, joint composers 
of a remarkable opera founded on Dumas' 
" Henri HL," Wormser, author of " L'Enfant 
Prodigue," Diaz, Pierne, Pessard, Pfeiffer, Mdlle. 
Chaminade, Lefebvre, Veronge de la Nux, 
Cahen, and Messager. This last composer's 
name is well known in London, where his 


delightful opera " La Basoche " was successfully 
performed at the English Opera House, now 
given up to that form of art, the variety enter- 
tainment, so dear to the British public. 

The music he has lately composed to Loti's 
" Madame Chrysantheme " will surely add much 
to his reputation. It is full of refinement and 

We now come to an interesting group of com- 
posers who are understood to represent musical 
ideas of a more " advanced " kind. Some of 
these are pupils of the late C^sar Franck, and 
have been humorously designated as forming 
part of " La R^publique Franckaise." 

It may here be said that the almost absolute 
ignorance existing in England as regards 
the compositions of so eminent a musician as 
Cesar Franck does not redound to our credit. 
Surely it would be worth the while of our choral 
societies to produce a work so remarkable in 
every way as " Les Beatitudes," and a place 
might occasionally be found in our concert 
programmes for some example of his chamber 


music. His fine violin sonata was recently 
played at the St. James's Hall by Mme. 
Frickenhaus and Mons. Ortmans, and great 
credit is thereby due to both these artists, who 
have shown an example that might with ad- 
vantage be followed. 

There exists a certain " Prelude, Choral et 
Fugue," for the piano, published by Messrs. 
Enoch, that I can confidently recommend to 
the notice of musicians, who will find therein 
the expression of a strong, deep, and noble 

Vincent d'Indy, one of Cesar Franck's best 
pupils, is equally little known in England, 
except by name. Born in 1852, this com- 
poser has produced a number of works, the 
value of which has caused him to be regarded 
as one of the most earnest and promising 
amongst the younger French musicians, as well 
as one of those who consider their art as sacred, 
and do not seek the suffrages of the masses, 
but are content with gaining the approval of a 
select few. 



The entire modern French school is strongly 
tinged with Wagnerism, but the essentially Teu- 
tonic nature of Brahms would seem to render 
his style absolutely uncongenial to a French 
mind. According to Mons. Hugues Imbert, 
the impression caused upon Vincent d'Indy by 
the perusal of Brahms' "Requiem," in 1873, 
was such that he forthwith started for Germany 
in order to become acquainted with the master. 
He first sought him in Vienna, then at Munich, 
and finally came across him at the Starnberger 
See, in Bavaria. The result of the long-desired 
interview does not seem to have been so satis- 
factory as it might have been, the German com- 
poser receiving the young enthusiast with a 
certain amount of reserve. 

The first work by Vincent d'Indy which 
was given in Paris was the overture to the 
" Piccolomini," which forms the second part 
of Schiller's trilogy of " Wallen stein." This 
took place in 1875. It was not until five 
years later that he terminated his symphony 
bearing the title of " Wallenstein," a composi- 


tion conceived upon a large scale, display- 
ing a marked capacity in the handling of the 
orchestra, and revealing symphonic aptitudes of 
a high order. 

Perhaps the most remarkable work that 
Vincent d'Indy has as yet produced is his 
dramatic legend " Le Chant de la Cloche," 
op. 1 8, the words of which are adapted from 
Schiller's well-known poem. This composition 
was awarded the prize offered by the city of 
Paris in 1886. The predominating influence 
in this work is that of Wagner. Perhaps some- 
what unduly complicated in the matter of detail, 
the score is remarkable as an example of con- 
summate workmanship and as an evidence of 
the lofty aspirations and elevated ideas held by 
its author. I must not omit to mention the 
Symphony in G for piano and orchestra, 
op. 25, which has the merit of decided origi- 
nality in the matter of structure. It is divided 
into three parts, and is mainly constructed upon 
a French popular melody, which is subjected 
to a variety of transformations. So far, his 


only contribution to the stage consists in a 
one-act opera, entitled "Attendez moi sous 
rOrme," played some ten or twelve years since 
at the Opera Comique. 

Vincent d'Indy is essentially a symphonist, 
and the same may be said of Gabriel 
Faure, whose talent and originality English 
audiences have occasionally had an oppor- 
tunity of appreciating. The habitues of the 
Monday Popular Concerts will not have for- 
gotten a certain quartet played at these ex- 
clusive gatherings a year or two ago, and 
amateurs may recollect the brilliant violin 
sonata which Saint-Saens introduced on the 
occasion of one of his last visits amongst us. 
Every violinist plays, or ought to play, his 
delicious " Berceuse." 

Faure, who was born in 1845, ^^^ written 
works of high musical value, such as the 
quartet above mentioned, the violin concerto, 
op. 14, and the symphony in D minor, op. 40. 
Many admirable songs and a large number of 
pianoforte works are also due to his pen. 


Mons. Hugues Imbert commences his in- 
teresting notice of the composer, included in 
his " Profils de Musiciens," with the following 
words : "If there be a French musician who 
by temperament and taste has left the French 
school in order to approach the German 
symphonic school ; if there be a composer who 
has the profoundest respect for his art, who 
loves it with his whole soul -, if there be a man 
who despises self-advertisement, and is averse 
to all concessions in favour of the doubtful 
taste of the public, it is Gabriel Faure." 

Whilst agreeing with the measure of praise 
allotted to the composer in the above lines, and 
recognising the influence of German music dis- 
cernible in his works, I am of opinion that his 
nationality is perhaps more marked than his 
biographer would seem to imagine. 

The nature of Faure's talent has been appre- 
ciated by Mons. Camille Benoit in these terms : 
" Faure^s talent has especially manifested itself 
in ' La Musique Intime,' that which one hears 
in an artist's salon or at a concert of chamber 


music, that which wants neither scenery nor 
orchestra. From all points of view, if I had to 
liken him to a contemporary foreign composer, 
it is to the Norwegian, Eduard Grieg, that I 
should compare him. That is to say, that in 
France, G. Faure is the first in the special line 
he has chosen, and towards which his nature 
has impelled him." 

I now come to a composer who has only com- 
paratively recently made a name. Emmanuel 
Chabrier was born in 1842, and commenced 
his musical career somewhat late in life. 
Always a musical enthusiast, and having found 
time to cultivate his favourite art as a pastime, 
he threw up an administrative appointment in 
1879, ^^^ resolved to devote himself entirely to 
composition. Two years previously he had 
written an " opera bouffe," entitled " L'Etoile," 
which was played at the Bouffes Parisiens. It 
was not, however, in this style that he was 
destined to shine. Very different is " Gwen- 
doline," an opera performed for the first time in 
1886 at Brussels with great success, and which 


has since been given in Germany, notably at 
Carlsruhe and Munich, and is, I believe, shortly 
to be mounted in Paris. Highly imaginative 
and poetical, this work must undoubtedly rank 
amongst the best operas that have emanated 
from the brain of a French composer for many 
years. The intense admiration that Chabrier 
entertains towards Wagner has not obscured 
the individuality of his own musical ideas. 
Ernest Reyer wrote an extremely eulogistic 
article on this work, from which I will cite an 
extract: — "Je me trouve en presence d'une 
ceuvre extremement interessante, renfermant 
des pages superbes et qui dans ses parties les 
moins saillantes, porte quand meme la griffe 
puissante d'un compositeur admirablement 

For some reason, which I do not pretend to 
fathom, Chabrier has introduced a popular Irish 
melody into his score ! 

In " Le Roi Malgre Lui," played at the Opera 
Comique in 1887, Chabrier has attempted a 
different style. This pleasing work is especially 


Striking through the ingenuity of the orchestral 
treatment, which often redeems the occasional 
banalite of its themes. It is altogether a 
delightful example of a modernised form of 
"opera comique," and had reached its third 
representation when the luckless " Opera 
Comique" Theatre was burnt to the ground. 
The orchestral rhapsody " Espana," constructed 
upon Spanish melodies, brimful of entrain and 
scored with a wonderful lightness of touch, 
has largely contributed to popularise the name 
of Chabrier in the concert room. There is 
both fancy and originality in the " Pieces 
Pittoresques " for piano, published by Messrs. 
Enoch in the Litolff edition. Chabrier is 
said to be at work upon an opera entitled 
" Briseis." 

I must not pass over in silence composers 
such as Arthur Coquard, Mdlle. Augusta 
Holmes, a lady of extraordinary talent, some 
say genius, Vidal, Chapuis, Hue, Camille Benoit, 
Marty, Henri Duparc, and Gustave Charpentier, 
one of the youngest and not the least gifted. 


With these few lines concerning some of the 
most remarkable amongst living French com- 
posers, I must take leave of my readers. That 
France will yet produce Avorks destined to keep 
up and further enhance her prestige there can 
be no doubt. The essentially dramatic tem- 
perament of her composers will continue to 
assert itself, and it is highly unlikely that they 
will allow themselves to fall into the exaggera- 
tions of any particular system. 

If during the first half of the century the 
influence of Rossini has been predominant, 
that of Wagner has been at least equally so 
during the latter portion. In either case, 
French composers have taken as much from 
each master as would amalgamate with their 
individuality without abrogating that national 
element which is so recognisable in their 

Truth of expression and dramatic character- 
isation are now universally sought for by operatic 
composers. Whether these are attained through 
the employment of one method or another 


matters but little. A composer is no more 
bound to construct an opera upon a number 
of representative themes than he is to reject all 
set forms. If his inspiration prompts him to 
compose in one particular style, by all means 
let him do so, provided he be sincere, and that 
his music bears the stamp of conviction. 
Musicians are apt to be too exclusive in their 
tastes. It should be possible to entertain 
preferences without necessarily condemning 
everything that does not come within the 
radius of one's ideas. The French school has, 
during this century, left its mark in an un- 
deniable manner upon operatic history, and the 
versatility of its composers has over and over 
again been proved. 

Casting a cursory glance backwards, do we 
not find, side by side with a work of such 
severely classic proportions, noble aspirations, 
yet simple construction as Mehul's "Joseph," 
bright specimens of the " opera comique," like 
Boieldieu's "Dame Blanche," Herold's "Pre 
aux Clercs," Auber's " Fra Diavolo," and 
273 s 


" Domino Noir " ? The Grand Opera stage 
is enriched by works so full of natural spon- 
taneity as Auber's " Muette de Portici," and of 
dramatic power as Halevy's " La Juive." Later 
on, Berlioz revolutionises orchestral methods 
whilst raising the ideal previously aimed at, 
Gounod adds an elegiac note and an intensity 
of poetical feeling to the characteristics of his 
nation, and Bizet gives evidence of a genius 
unhappily too soon cut short, and prepares the 
way for the realistic operatic style now so much 
in vogue. "Faust," " Mignon," "Carmen," 
" Manon," " Samson et DaHla," and other 
operas acquire a European fame, whilst the 
younger French composers are impatiently 
waiting for the opportunity to vie with their 

In closing this little volume I must again 
express the consciousness I entertain of the 
inadequacy of my efforts to deal with a subject 
that would require several volumes to do it 

If, however, I have succeded, in addition to 


furnishing particulars of the Hves of the most 
popular French composers, in drawing attention 
to the works of some who are less well-known 
than they deserve to be, my object will have 
been attained, and this little book will not have 
been written in vain. 






1. " Le Double Echelle," opera comique, i act. 


2. " Le Perruquier de la Regence," op. com., 3 acts. 


3. " La Gipsy," ballet, 2 acts. 1839. 

(In collaboration with Benoist.) 

4. " Le Panier fleuri," op. com., i act. 1839. 

5. " Carline," op., 3 acts. 1840. 

6. " Le Comte de Carmagnole," op., 2 acts. 1841. 

7. " Le Guerillero," op., 2 acts. 1842. 

8. " Angelique et Medor," op. com., i act. 1843. 

9. " Mina," op. com., 3 acts. 1843. 
10. "Betty," ballet, 2 acts. 1846. 



11. " Le Caid," op. com., 3 acts. 1849. 

12. "Le Songe d'une Nuit d'E^te," op. com., 3 acts. 


13. " Raymond," op., 3 acts. 1851. 

14. " La Tonelli," op., 2 acts. 1853. 

15. " La Cour de Celimene," op. com., 2 acts. 1855. 

16. " Psyche," op., 3 acts. 1857. 

17. " Le Carnaval de Venise," op. com., 3 acts. 1857. 

18. "Le Roman d'Elvire," op. com., 3 acts. i860. 

19. " Mignon," op., 3 acts. 1866. 

20. " Hamlet," op., 5 acts. 1868. 

21. " Gille et Gillotin," op. com., i act. 1874. 

22. " Fran9oise de Rimini," op., 5 acts. 1882. 

23. "La Tempete," ballet. 1889. 

Messe Solennelle. 
Marche Religieuse. 
3 Motets. 


" Hommage a Boieldieu," cantata. 

" Souvenirs d'ltalie," 6 romances, pour chant et piano. 

Quintet for strings. 

Quartet for strings, op. i. 

Trio for piano, violin, or violoncello. 

" Fantaisie," for piano or orchestra. 

"Fantaisie sur un air ecossais," for piano. 

" Six caprices pour piano." 

" Deux nocturnes." 



" Rondeaux pour piano a quatre mains. 
Choruses for male voices. 
&c. &c. 



1. "Sapho," op., 3 acts. 1851. 

2. " La Nonne sanglante," op., 5 acts. 1854. 

3. "Le Medecin Malgre Lui," op. com., 3 acts. 


4. " Faust," op., 5 acts. 1859. 

5. "Philemon et Baucis," op. com., 2 acts. i860. 

(Later enlarged to 3 acts.) 

6. " La Colombe," op. com., 2 acts. i860. 

7. " La Reine de Saba," op., 5 acts. 1862. 

8. " Mireille," op., 5 acts. 1864. 

9. " Romeo et Juliette," op., 5 acts. 1867. 

10. "Cinq Mars," op., 4 acts. 1877. 

11. " Polyeucte," op., 5 acts. 1878. 

12. " Le Tribut de Zamora," op., 4 acts. 1881. 
" Georges Dandin," op. com. (unperformed). 


Several Masses, of which the best known is the 

" Messe de Ste. Cecile," 1855. Amongst the others 

may be mentioned the "Messe aux Orpheonistes," 

1852; "Messe du Sacre Coeur," 1876; " Messe de 



" Paques,"i885, and " Messe a la Memoire de Jeanne 

d'Arc," 1887. 
" Tobie," oratorio. 1854. 
"The Redemption." 1882. 
" Mors et vita." 1885. 
•• Hymne a St. Augustin." 1885. 
" De Profundis." 
"Te Deum." 

Also a quantity of motets, choruses, and other 
religious compositions. 


" lei-- Recueil de 20 Melodies." (Includes the " Ave 
Maria" on the first prelude of Bach; " Venise," 
"Serenade," " Le Vallon," "Chanson du Prin- 
temps," "Jesus de Nazareth," "Le Soir," etc.). 

.igeme. Recueil de 20 Melodies." (Includes "Mar- 
guerite," " Medje," "Envoi de Fleurs," " Au 
Printemps," " Ce que je suis sans toi," etc.). 

"^eme. Recucil de 20 Melodies." (Includes "La 
Paquerette," " Ou voulez-vous aller?" " Le Ciel 
a visite la Terre," several extracts from operas, 

••^cme. Recueil de 20 Melodies." (Includes " Le Banc 
de Pierre," " Le Nom de Marie," several extracts 
from operas, etc.). 

A volume of 15 duets. 

The above are published by Messrs. Choudens. 

During his sojourn in England Gounod composed a 
large number of songs, the best known of which 
are: "Maid of Athens," "The Fountain mingles 


with the River," " Oh, that we two were Maying!" 
"The Wcrker," " There is a green Hill far away," 
and "Biondina," a collection of 20 songs to Italian 


Music to the tragedy " Ulysse." 1852. 
Music to " Les deux Reines." 1872. 
Music to " Jeanne d'Arc." 1873. 
Symphony No. i, in D. 1854. 
Symphony No. 2, in E flat. 1855. 
Funeral March of a Marionette. 
Pianoforte music, Marches, etc. 



"La Princesse Jaune," op. com., i act. 1872. 
" Le Timbre d' Argent," op., 3 acts. 1877. 
" Samson et Dalila," Biblical op., 3 acts. 1877. 
" Etienne Marcel," op., 4 acts. 1879. 
" Henri VIII," op., 4 acts. 1881. 
"Proserpine," op., 3 acts. 1887. 
" Ascanio," op., 5 acts. 1890. 
" Phryne," op. com., 2 acts. 1893. 



Messe Solennelle, op. 4. 

'• Tantum ergo," chorus, op. 5. 

" Oratorio de Noel," op. 12. 

Psalm xviii., " Coeli enarrant," op. 42. 

" Le Deluge," poeme biblique, op. 45. 

" Les Soldats de Gedeon," double chorus, op. 46. 

Messe de Requiem, op. 54. 


Symphony in E flat, No. i, op. 2. 

Symphony in A minor, No. 2, op. 55. 

Symphony in C minor. No. 3, op. 78. 

Overture, " Spartacus." 

" Le Rouet d'Omphale," symphonic poem, op. 31. 

" Phaeton," symphonic poem, op. 39. 

" Danse Macabre," symphonic poem, op. 40. 

"La jeunesse d'Hercule," symphonic poem, op. 

" Orient et Occident," march for military band, 

op. 25. 
"Marche heroique," op. 34. 
Suite (Prelude, Sarabande, Gavotte, Romance, Final), 

op. 49, 
" Suite Algerienne," op. 60. 
" Une Nuit a Lisbonne," barcarolle, op. 63. 
" La Jota Aragonese," op. 64. 
" Sarabande et Rigaudon," op. 93. 



Concerto for the piano in D, No. i, op. 17. 
Concerto for the piano in G minor, No. 2, op. 22. 
Concerto for the piano in E flat, No. 3, op. 29. 
Concerto for the piano in C minor, No. 4, op. 44. 
Rhapsodic d'Auvergne, piano & orchestra, op. 73. 
"Africa," fantasia, piano & orchestra, op. 89. 
Introduction et Rondo Capriccioso, vioHn & orchestra, 

op. 28. 
Concerto for viohn, No. i. 
Concerto for viohn in C, No. 2, op. 58. 
Concerto for viohn in B minor, No. 3, op. 61. 
Romance in D flat for viohn or flute, op. 37. 
Romance in C for viohn, op. 48. 
" Morceau de Concert," for viohn, op. 62. 
♦' Havanaise," for viohn, op. 83. 
" Tarantehe," for flute & clarionet, op. 6. 
Concerto for violonceho, op. 33. 
" Ahegro appassionato," for violonceho, op. 43. 


Trio in F, piano, viohn & violoncello. No. i, op. 18, 
Trio in E minor, piano, violin & violoncello. No. 2, 

op. 92. 
Quartet in B flat, piano, violin, viola & violoncello, 

op. 41. 
Septet for trumpet, two violins, viola, basso & piano, 

op. 65. 



Suite for violoncello & piano, op. i6. 
Sonata for violoncello & piano, op. 32. 
Sonata in D minor, for violin & piano, op. 75. 


Six Bagatelles, op. 3. 

le^fe Mazourka, G minor, op. 21. 

Gavotte, C minor, op. 23. 

2eme Mazourka, G minor, op. 24. 

Six Etudes, op. 52. 

Menuet et valse, op. 56. 

3^me Mazourka, B minor, op. 66. 

Album of six pieces, op. 72. 

" Souvenir d'ltalie," op. 80. 

" Les Cloches du Soir," op. 85. 

Valse Canariote, op. 88. 

Suite, op. go. 

Variations on a theme of Beethoven, for two pianos, 

op. 35- 
"Wedding-cake," " caprice- valse " for piano and 

strings, op. 76. 
Polonaise for two pianos, op. 77. 
" Feuillet d'Album," for piano duet, op. 81. 
"Pas redouble," piano duet, op. 86. 
Scherzo for two pianos, op. 87. 


" La Lyre et la Harpe," ode, op. 57. 
"Hymme a Victor Hugo," op. 69. 
"La Fiancee du Timbalier," ballade, op. 82. 
" Scene d' Horace," op. 10. 


" 3 Rhapsodies sur des Cantiques Bretons," for organ, 

op. 7. 
" Benediction nuptiale," for organ, op. 9. 
" Elevation ou Communion," for organ, op. 13. 
" Romance," for horn & piano, op. 36. 
"Berceuse," for piano & violin, op. 38. 
Romance for violoncello & piano, op. 51. 
2 Choruses, words by Victor Hugo, op. 53. 
2 Choruses, op. 68. 
2 Choruses for men's voices, op. 71. 
Saltarelle, chorus, op. 74. 
" Caprice " on Danish melodies, for flute. 
Oboe, clarionet, and piano, op. 79. 
" Les Guerriers," chorus for men's voices, op. 84. 
" Chant Saphique," for violoncello & piano, op. 91. 
Music to " Antigone." 

Also a number of piano transcriptions of Bach, 
Beethoven, &c. &c. 

The large majority of the compositions of Saint- 
Saens are published by Messrs A. Durand & Fils. 


La Grand'tante," op. com., i act. 1867. 
Don Cesar de Bazan," op. com., 3 acts. 1872. 
Le Roi de Lahore," op., 5 acts. 1877. 
'■ Herodiade," op. 1881. 
Manon," op., 4 acts. 1884. 


6. " Le Cid," op., 4 



7. " Esclarmonde," 

op. I 


8. " Le Mage," op. 

5 acts 


9. " Werther," op. 


10. " Le Carillon," ballet. 


II. " Thais," op. (as 

yet un 





" Marie Magdeleine, 

' drame sacre. 

" Eve," mystere. 

" La Vierge." 


" Poeme d'Avril." 
•' Poeme d'Octobre." 
" Poeme pastoral." 
" Poeme du Souvenir." 
" Poeme d'Hiver." 
" Chants intimes." 
" Vingt Melodies." 

(These include " Elegie," "A Colombine," " Nuit 
d'Espagne," " Serenade du Passant," &c.) 
&c. &c. 


" Mile, de Montpensier," cantata] 
" David Rizzio." cantata / ^^^^^ ^^'°^^'- 

" Paix et Libert^," cantate officielle. 1867. 
"Narcisse," idylle antique. 

Music to Leconte de Lisle' s tragedy, " Les Erinnyes." 
Music to Victorian Sardou's piece, "Le Crocodile. ' 


" Pompeia," four symphonic pieces for orchestra. 
Concert Overture. 
Overture to Racine's " Phedre." 
First Orchestral Suite. 

Second ,, ,, " Scenes Hongroises." 


Fourth ,, ,, " Scenes Pittoresques." 

Fifth ,, ,, " Scenes Dramatiques " 

(after Shakespeare). 
Sixth ,, ,, " Scenes Alsaciennes. " 

Sarabande Espagnole, for small orchestra. 
" Lamento " to the memory of Georges Bizet. 
Introduction and variations for strings, flute, oboe, 

clarionet, horn and bassoon. 
" Scenes de Bal," for piano. 
Improvisations, for piano. 
" Le Roman d'Arlequin," pantomime enfantine. 
&c. &c. &c. 



' Le Selam," ode symphonique. 1850. 
' Maitre Wolfram," op., i act. 1854. 
' Sacountala," ballet. 1858. 
' La Statue," op. com., 3 acts. 1S61. 
' Erostrate," op., 2 acts. 1862. 
' Sigurd," op., 4 acts. 1884 
' Salammbo," op., 5 acts. 1890. 




" Kerim," opera, 3 acts. 1887. 
" Le Reve," lyrical drama, 4 acts. 1891. 
" L'Attaque du Moulin," lyrical drama, 4 acts. 

Ouverture heroique. 
*' Leda," poeme antique. 
" Penthesilee," poeme symphonique. 
" La Belle au Bois dormant," poeme symphonique. 
" Lieds de France," album of songs. 

Printed by Ballantyne, Hanson & Co. 
London dr' Edinbiirgh. 



i H„„, 3,5002 00090 1368 

I Masters of French music / 

HL 390 . H57 

Hervey^ Arthur^ 1855-1922 

Mas-ters ol French mueic